“Partner organizations adapted quickly, not only figuring out their day-to-day work serving older adults but also building their coalition groups and crafting their action plans.”
—Tony Sertich, Northland Foundation PresidentIn the middle of these challenging times, northeastern Minnesota is fortunate to have an incredible nonprofit network working on behalf of our communities.
Just as the Northland Foundation was rolling out its new Integrated Rural Community Aging Program, the pandemic hit. It has taken a massive toll throughout the region, but those serving elders and their family caregivers have gone above and beyond.
Spring, summer, and into fall have been busy implementing the Community Planning and Care Coordination (CPCC) coalition-building and planning process in sites across the region. When public safety measures began in March, the process pivoted from in-person to virtual. Timelines shifted as everyone adjusted to dramatic changes in circumstances.
Dozens of organizations and individuals have joined forces to help older adults age with dignity in their homes and communities. The eight Community Planning and Care Integration sites are Two Harbors, Itasca Area/Northern St. Louis County, Ely Area, North Shore Area, Koochiching County, Northern St. Louis County, Aitkin County, and Cook County. Northland and its key partner, the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging, will provide funding and technical assistance to the eight sites over the next two years.
Three of the coalitions – Two Harbors, Itasca Area with includes part of northern St. Louis County, and the Ely Area – were the first to be launched and have since received multi-year funding to support their exciting plans. Remaining sites will also have the opportunity for funding as their plans are solidified.
The Two Harbors action plan includes the following:
Expand Existing Services and Supports by pursuing the AARP Age-Friendly Community designation for Lake County, raising awareness of available services, and also working to expand services.
Create Gathering Place(s) for Older Adults with regular activities at the Two Harbors Community Center and Lake View Hospital community space. They will also envision and help facilitate major Community Center improvements.
Reduce social isolation by helping older adults connect to others using technology, monthly newsletters with events and activities, and care packages to older adult households.
In the Ely area, action plans are to:
Reduce Food Insecurity through direct delivery of food including fresh produce and ramping up the SNAP-Ed Program for Healthy Eating for Seniors.
Promote Independent Living with Improved Access to In-Home Services by addressing initiating personal care assistance and home medical (nursing) support to older adults.
Increase Knowledge and Awareness of Available Senior Services by creating an easy-to-use, updated directory of senior services along with marketing to help area seniors understand what services are available to them.
Increase Social Interaction through expanded intergenerational programs and by providing local seniors with training/assistance in using technology and social media.
The plans for the Itasca Area as well as part of northern St. Louis County are to:
Create a Community Navigator position to help older adults and family caregivers to locate and connect with services and supports that they need.
Develop a website on aging services that will also make available a newly developed universal referral form shared by partnering agencies, health care systems, and other service providers.
Improve the Senior Resource Guide format and content to make it easier for older adults and caregivers seeking information.
"The strategies that are being planned by the coalition partners, in a coordinated way, will greatly help older adults and their family caregivers to age successfully in their homes and communities," said Sertich.
The Community Planning and Care Coordination Project is just one strategy of the Integrated Rural Community Aging Program. Northland will also leverage its nationally recognized AGE to age program in 18 sites across the region to increase social engagement among older adults while helping children and youth thrive; work with Tribal Nation partners to provide resources that will help them further support Elders; and support workforce strategies to increase the quantity and quality of caregivers for older adults.