To help drive creative new ways to keep seniors productive and connected to their communities, the Community Foundation launched the Senior Engagement Program to explore and support innovative new volunteer-driven, community-based programs designed to help seniors live independently as they age.
In southeast Michigan, the percentage of the population age 60 and older is rising at a much faster rate than all other age groups. By 2035, those age 65 and older will comprise more than a third of the residents in southeast Michigan. Clearly, the extent to which these seniors remain in good health and live independent and satisfying lives is of significant consequence to us all.
Several years ago, the Community Foundation began to systematically assess the needs, conditions and interests of older adults. With the support of the Imani Fund, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan created the Senior Engagement Program. Each of the program’s five “Innovation Grants” supported a partnership between an organization with a strong tradition of service to older adults and the elderly with one that is new to this sector.
The medical, social, transportation, housing and service needs of the region’s older citizens are intensifying just as resources to support them are in decline. To begin to meet this challenge, the Community Foundation has provided nearly $1.6 million to organizations serving older adults.
The Senior Engagement Program has helped participating organizations:
- Reshape their current operations to be more welcoming, inclusive and supportive to the fastest-growing demographic group in our region
- Learn more about how to serve or engage older adults and develop partnerships with organizations with expertise in serving and/or engaging older adults in their work
- Enhance collaboration and improve the capacity of organizations to serve and/or engage older adults and address the fundamental issues of aging
The result has been a variety of innovative approaches to issues ranging from employment and career retraining to fostering active and healthy lifestyles, promoting volunteerism and intergenerational social connections, and providing transportation options.