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Director's Blog: Helping Seniors Age in Place

Posted by | Deacon Rick Birkel

In the first installment of his monthly blog, Deacon Rick Birkel discusses the need for a parish-based senior support program.

No one will deny that getting older is hard work. For many people, aging is associated with loss–loss of earnings, loss of social connections, health and stamina, etc. In spite of the challenges, however, a large number of seniors are optimistic about their lives, about the state of the world, and about their engagement with family and friends as well as their ability to contribute. Mr.  Leonard LeClaire is one shining example – equanimity at 100 yrs. – and continuing to give back every day. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could live a life as rich and satisfying as this?

Unfortunately, not all older adults fare as well as Mr. LeClaire. Negative attitudes about aging and negative behavior toward seniors abound and create serious problems for seniors in our communities, who are often the targeted for financial scams and theft. Many seniors find themselves isolated and struggle with declining health to accomplish the tasks they need to live independently. Even more seniors have few opportunities to share their gifts with others.  Indeed, “ageism” and shifting demographics mean that many older adults are denied their right to be celebrated, valued, and supported. They are simply left behind.

Overcoming the obstacles to a rich, full life is the goal of one of Catholic Charities’ newest initiatives – the Senior Living Resource Center. Our aim is to improve the overall quality of life for seniors living in our parishes and in Catholic Charities residences. At the core of the Catholic Charities mission is the fundamental belief that every person is sacred in the eyes of God and deserves to live with dignity and fullness of life.  Through the use of friendly visitors, this program will reach out to seniors who would otherwise be at risk of becoming isolated, and help remove barriers to engagement in their communities.

Parish-based friendly visitors will reach out to seniors, engage with them, and assist them in accessing important resources. Through their efforts, friendly visitor volunteers will help maintain the web of connection and relationship that is vital to healthy aging and to healthy communities. Because we are all enriched and all live better lives when seniors are present in our communities, the senior living program will help communities remain inclusive and accessible, promote the engagement of seniors, and create opportunities for seniors to share their remarkable gifts and wisdom with us all. We hope you will join us! Please contact us for more information on how you can support Oregon’s seniors.

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