JF&CS News December 2015

"You have to keep moving," said Pearl, 83. Despite two knee replacement surgeries and chronic back issues, Pearl does all she can to stay positive and to encourage others. One of the keys to her sunny attitude is JF&CS Aging Well at Home.

From wellness to nutrition to painting classes, trips to museums, concerts, speakers, and luncheons, the program offers a wide range of activities and classes to promote healthy aging and ultimately allow older adults to live at home for as long as possible.

"When this program was introduced it was like life came here," said Pearl. "You need all the help you can get to stay positive and that's what this program does."

Pearl is a long-time resident of an apartment community in Brookline, one of several locations served by Aging Well at Home. Last year, more than 600 older adults registered for activities offered through the program.

Pearl has become an unofficial ambassador for Aging Well at Home. "She has made it possible through her intuitive understanding to make the program meaningful for other people," said Kathy Burnes, Division Director, JF&CS Services for Older Adults. "She's a great resource for understanding the community."

Aging Well at Home's services meet the needs of the seniors who live in each specific community. Each one is designed to help seniors stay living in their homes by preventing isolation and depression, poor management of chronic conditions, and inadequate nutrition. The program also supports seniors by connecting them with the extensive continuum of services that JF&CS offers, including home-based mental health services, Friendly Visitors, free expert advice through CJP SeniorDirect, and geriatric care management services.

"People want to avoid having to move to a more institutional setting. They want to stay at home because it's what they know and it's a great comfort to them," said Hilary Tolan, Program Coordinator, Aging Well at Home.

"Some people are quite comfortable asking for assistance and some are more shy. Pearl keeps me updated on the other residents and will point out someone who needs help," said Hilary. "And she gives them information about what we have available. Pearl is the kind of person that others gravitate to and she encourages people to participate."

Pearl and her friends "hold court" in the sitting room of the apartment building, gently teasing and checking in with the other residents and encouraging them to join her at an upcoming activity. She understands that even though it's a big complex, people can still become isolated and that they tend to seclude themselves as aches and physical challenges grow.

"I like to make people laugh and I can still laugh at myself," Pearl said. "You have to make it a happy time. I tell them that once you get your feet wet you'll like [the program]. It's really a benefit we didn't have before."

Thanks to the program's efforts, strong and supportive resident communities are fostered at each Aging Well at Home site. And with Pearl's help, the seniors in her apartment complex will continue to be active and connected with each other and their community.

"Aging is often associated with vulnerability but there's a lot of resilience and that's what we try to capitalize on," said Kathy. "Pearl exemplifies that and makes the connection so much better."

Funding for this program comes from CJP, the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs, and generous individual donors.