Valley communities will be better able to fight social isolation and strengthen the connections that older adults have, thanks to two new grants awarded to the Greater Phoenix Age-Friendly Network. The funding will help three pilot communities launch new programs to help older adults live independently. Amy St. Peter, the Maricopa Association of Governments Human Services manager, will talk about how the money will be used.
Ted Simons: Two new grants were awarded to the greater Phoenix age friendly network. Funding will be used to launch pilot programs to help older adults live independently and form better connections to their communities. For more we welcome Amy St. Peter, human services director for the Maricopa association of governments. Thanks for being here. The Greater Phoenix Age Friendly Network. What are we talking about?
Amy St. Peter: We're changing the question from how do we create programs for older adults that are insular and separated, how do we fully embded older adults-- and how do we fully engage them, how do we leverage our time and talents better.
Ted Simons: So how do you help fight this social isolation?
Amy St. Peter: One of the main ways we're doing that authorize a new website, WWW.connect60plus.com, developed really hand in hand with people age and older in our community. It's really different. It's a different approach because very interactive. People can register online. They can join local discussion forums, there's a community calendar. They can hear from people like themselves leading great lives and blog back and forth with them. It's aimed at connecting people online and giving them avenues to connect face to face.
Ted Simons: What about folks who are not all that familiar with computers or not all that comfortable with computers?
Amy St. Peter: We have a lot of outreach to that group as well. We're working with different communities now, four different communities, Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale and the north-west valley. We're developing different pilot projects to help neighbors help neighbors to connect people face to face.
Ted Simons: This is where the two new grants will help by way of the four pilot programs?
Amy St. Peter: Absolutely. We're very thankful we received a grant as part of the community agenda, a national pilot project. That funding comes from the Pfizer foundation. We have funding from the Metlife foundation and that is staffed by partners for livable communities.
Ted Simons: Talk about these models. Are you encouraging volunteers, encouraging older folks to reach out? What's going on?
Amy St. Peter: Well, we're working on a couple models. One called the village a membership based group where residents in the community define their community, what they need to stay in that community and what they are willing to do to make those services available to them, anything from transportation, yard care, also time banks where people are helping each other. They give a service, they get a service.
Ted Simons: You have an appointment, you need to go to the doctor, the grocery store, you need someone to talk to, in your village you find someone who is there, a neighbor if you will?
Amy St. Peter: It's all about people helping each other. This radical notion of people helping each other, not relying on any one government service or nonprofit service but figuring out what the community can do for itself. It's buildings capacity in a very different way than we have been.
Ted Simons: Some are getting support and help and companionship, some of the younger folks are getting some mentorship.
Amy St. Peter: They are getting mentors. For example, a middle-aged person might drive an older person to their dock doctor appointment then the older person may watch your kids after school.
Ted Simons: Competition to find the most age friendly communities in the region. What's that all about?
Amy St. Peter: We're providing technical assistance to four communities but we want to celebrate every single community doing something to embrace people of all ages, particularly older adults. We have an age friendly competition. People can go to our website and tell was their community is doing. It's supported by the Virginia G. Piper charitable trust.
Ted Simons: Describe the content. My community does what compared to something over here?
Amy St. Peter: We're allowing people to define their community. Their block, a neighborhood, a whole city? What is their community doing? What do they love? What makes their community different? We're excited to learn and discover the different things that people are doing within their communities.
Ted Simons: Who reviews the nominations and/or decides the winner?
Amy St. Peter: Absolutely. That would be a very hard decision I imagine. We have a great panel of national experts. We're working with AARP, generations United, aging in place and the Piper trust. People have great expertise from across the country to carefully evaluate each community and judge on its own parents.
Ted Simons: The problem of isolation in older folks, talk to us about this in general.
Amy St. Peter: It's extremely serious and much more far reaching than one would imagine. We have conducted extensive engagement and analysis throughout the community. One is that people really want different things. So the traditional answers like senior centers which may be great for some people don't necessarily appeal to a large part of the population. The traditional answers aren't necessarily relevant to a good part of our population. When people are disconnected they are more likely to have their needs unmet and they are likely to feel devalued. We're trying to make everyone feel that they do have value.
Ted Simons: It sounds as though later years seems as though it's a moving target in that it's being redefined as we go on, the boomers as they get older are not necessarily the shuffle board crowd.
Amy St. Peter: No. It's a time of exploration on a community level as well as an individual level. Speaking to one of the champions, one of the women blogging on our website, she said retirement has been wonderful. She can do all the things she never had time for before. It used to be life expectancy was close to retirement age so you could work all your time, play golf, play bingo, then die. People can live years after that retirement age and do amazing things with that time.
Ted Simons: Greater Phoenix age friendly network. How long has it been around? Has it changed its mission?
Amy St. Peter: It's changed in its focus slightly to have a focus on how we embed older adults in meaningful ways in their full community with people of all ages. It's a multi-generational focus. The effort has been under way for approximately three years. We have had great leadership from mayor Stanton and the city of Phoenix as well as residents. This is something that faces all of us. We're all aging.
Ted Simons: One more time, that website?
Amy St. Peter: WWW.connectplus.com.
Ted Simons: Plus is spelled out?
Amy St. Peter: Absolutely.
Ted Simons: Congratulations on this. Sounds like good work. Continued success. Thank you so much.
Amy St. Peter:Manager, Maricopa Association of Governments Human Services;