Senior Access Points to expand to rural Larimer County with grant funding

Courtesy photo – Linda Rumney, Larimer County Office on Aging program coordinator lead, introduces local aging-related tools during the February 2018 Senior Access Points Ambassador Training workshop at the Larimer County Office of Colorado State University Extension in Fort Collins.

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Senior Access Points will be able to bring on more ambassadors and encompass the rural parts of Larimer County as it continues its work connecting seniors and families with local resources.

Senior Access Points of Larimer County, a collaborative program developed by Colorado State University Extension in 2017, provides a single online access point for aging-related resources, services and programs for older adults living in Larimer County.

CSU Extension received a $149,500 grant in November 2018 from Denver nonprofit NextFifty Initiative to expand the program and improve community services for older adults and their caregivers. The grant, which began Jan. 2, is for the years 2019-20.

“A lot of community services are available in our county, but residents need help finding them,” said Sue Schneider, extension agent for the Larimer County Office of CSU Extension.

CSU Extension developed an online access point to bring together existing resources, guidebooks, databases and agencies in several categories; including health, home care, housing, caregiver support, social and volunteer opportunities, and transportation. The program followed a Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities assessment in 2016 to 2017 that identified where people looked for resources and if there were any gaps in services.

“We learned when we did a community assessment that many older adults and family members don’t know where to turn when a crises hits and are scrambling trying to figure out what to do,” Schneider said. “We are trying to get upstream of the problem, so the community is educated about the resources and services that exist.”

With the grant, Senior Access Points will be able to implement a countywide marketing campaign, conduct targeted outreach to raise awareness, and connect rural and isolated residents in Larimer County with the resources and services they need. CSU Extension, in partnership with the CSU Department of Human Development and Family Studies, the Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities and the Larimer County Office on Aging, has three goals for the implementation.

The first is to recruit and train volunteer ambassadors living in the county’s rural areas, adding another 12 to the roster of nine, who began last year and mainly focused on the county’s urban areas. They will be trained beginning in July on how to provide education on the resources from the Senior Access Points website, the Network of Care Database of service providers and the Office on Aging Answers on Aging Resource Guide, a directory of community resources listing businesses and organizations. They also will learn how to direct community residents to the Office on Aging’s options counseling phone service, which provides information and directs callers to resources.

“We can have more people out there who are linking our older adults to services that help them remain independent in their own homes in their community of choice,” said Lynda Meyer, program manager for the Office on Aging. “It’s a great partnership to allow us to keep expanding our outreach in the community.”

Senior Access Points also will expand training with community collaborators and agencies at places like community centers, libraries, housing communities and medical facilities to equip their staffs and volunteers with information on aging-related resources, so they can share the information with their customers and clients.

“The Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities is excited to help put together some of the great resources and programs in Larimer County with residents who don’t know where they are when they need them,” said Jim Becker, executive director of the partnership, pointing out some of the challenges for rural residents, including fewer resources where they live and greater distance to get to them. “They’re helping us spread the word in the less dense areas of the county that are harder to get to and reach.”

The second goal for the grant is to extend collaboration among providers serving the aging population to help reduce redundancies in services and eliminate barriers for residents needing information and access to those services and resources. Senior Access Points will organize community meetings to provide information about the resources, while also keeping the message unified.

In year two of the grant, the third goal will be implemented to build sustainability for the program’s continued outreach and collaboration.

“This is around establishing local ownership,” Schneider said. “It’s making sure the ambassadors are brought in on an ongoing basis, making sure their families, friends and community members can come to them when have questions about materials and resources. They are out in the community being able to offer information about community needs.”

Senior Access Points visited 117 community sites and organizations in 2018, plus distributed 6,125 outreach materials that included business cards, refrigerator magnets and rack cards. The program, entirely volunteer run, added its first staff member in January, a part-time project coordinator.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is change the culture of people being OK asking for help,” Schneider said. “We are trying to coordinate as a county how to get people together, so they can share coordinated information.”

Senior Access Points’ information portal is at LarimerSeniors.org. For additional information, visit http://senioraccesslarimer.colostate.edu/ or call 970-498-7740.

 

 

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