Keeping Engaged

This local nonprofit helps older adults make healthy choices and decisions, by providing sound information and easy access to programs and services.

The Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut connects persons 55 and older with volunteer and employment opportunities through its Volunteer and Training Department. The volunteer program offers guidance and training, and follows through with volunteer placement in a wide variety of areas. Several of the volunteer opportunities offer stipends to eligible individuals. The Volunteer and Training Department assists individuals aged 55+ in finding part-time employment and offers training opportunities that may help the older worker to discover a new career, brush up on rusty skills or learn new ones. Some older adults wish to pursue new work opportunities to stay connected and stimulated.

Many older adults feel the economic need to return to work to meet their basic living expenses. According to the AARP, nearly 50 percent of adults 65 and older rely on Social Security for more than 50 percent of their incomei. Seventeen percent rely on Social Security for more than 90 percent of their income. Under these circumstances, many people find the economic need to return to work. "Older workers are very reliable and consistent with a good work ethic," says Director of Volunteers and Training Ron Webb, "but many employers would never interview [an older person] just because they are older." He notes that due to budget cuts the slots were cut from 50 last year to 30 this year, and there's a waiting list.

To make healthy choices and decisions, older adults need sound information and easy access to programs and services. The Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut also offers an "Aging Resource Center." The Aging Resource Center is a hub of information for older adults, individuals with disabilities, caregivers, and professionals in the aging network. The informational topics include benefits, caregiving, community resources, housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Long-Term Care health insurance and a wide variety of topics related to aging and independent living. Additionally the department screens for benefits eligibility, assists with the completions of benefits applications and counsels individuals and their families on options for long-term care.

When the AARP survey asked, "What do you want when you retire?" almost all of the respondents answered "to remain healthy and sharp." Yet the availability and affordability of health care remains a concern for many older adults. Many older adults continue to lead active lives while routinely juggling chronic health conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, hearing or vision impairments. Many older adults with illnesses or disabilities can remain in their homes with some assistance, avoiding costly assisted living or nursing home care. Yet only 9 percent of what Connecticut spends on Medicaid (for 65+ and disabled) is for home care. The remaining 91 percent is for institutional care.

Currently the estimated value of family care for older Connecticut residents is $5.8 billion. This represents 97 percent of the entire State Medicaid budget, a cost that could not be absorbed by public sources if family care were to decrease.

i AARP Public Policy Institute. Beyond 50.05: A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities. (Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute, 2005).