United Way’s Spotlight on Safe and
Promoting Quality Aging
|Clockwise from upper left: Forum
participants listen to presentations;
United Way CEO Renee Moe addresses
the crowd; Dr. Tim Bartholow
(l-r) and Barbara Nichols listen to
audience responses; A table brainstorms
on senior issues; Kathryn Bowen talks
about her fall-prevention class
help support older adults with living healthily in the community. We want to make sure that we have more stability for older adults by 2020. We
have very specific strategies on how to support them including some of the programs that you heard about like comprehensive medication
reviews and classes for stability. The bottom line is we want to help seniors and older adults because the population is growing so robustly.
And of course, we always specifically focus at United Way on communities of color and communities in poverty.”
United Way is focusing on four new strategies while it continues to implement two strategies they launched five years ago to reduce falls.
“We’re really focusing on first identifying and assessing. We want to look at the risk of adverse drug events and falls by meeting with
individuals and looking at comprehensive medication reviews and fall-prevention classes.
“The second one is improving connections. We know that people are pretty connected and have high trust with physicians and healthcare
communities. We want to connect physicians and healthcare providers to resources for non-medical needs. So for comprehensive health, you
might go to the doctor for a heart check or you have fallen. But there may be other issues in terms of food or housing instability or family
support or things like that. And so, we want to provide more connections between physicians and social services to be able to seniors.
“The third area is providing access to resources. That is really for people taking care of their loved ones. People want to understand what are
the tools and resources to help loved ones in their lives be more successful. Many times, people are not aware of the network of social
services for seniors and caregivers and also for caregiver fatigue in case people need a rest or respite. We want to make sure that those
services are promoted more and people are aware of them. People often don’t think about them until they need them.
“The fourth strategy is expanding the reach. We want to make sure that a specific emphasis of rural areas and communities of color that we
have those seniors engaged because oftentimes it is harder for them to get access to services. And they might think of resources in Madison
versus across the entire Dane County. How do we expand the reach into communities of color who aren’t sometimes as comfortable in more
structured types of support systems and building more trust and having more staff of color to be able to have trust relationships.”
And as with most of its other initiatives, United Way is seeking to make seniors a part of the solution in promoting healthier and safer lifestyles.
“We actually just started a group called Readi, which is Retired Employees Are Dedicated Individuals,” Moe said. “There is so much expertise
and wisdom and for a lot of people time to be able to give back. And when you think about the needs in our community to be able to mentor a
child or mentor a parent and parent coaching with financial literacy and financial skills. We want to keep seniors and older adults engaged in
the community as well as address some of these other issues in the Agenda for Change so that people have more dignity and feel connected
and valued. And also leverage that beautiful life experience that you’ve gained over the past 60-90 years to help strengthen our community.
That’s a huge component of what we are doing. We didn’t call that out, but we spend a lot of time having that conversation. In fact, one of the
things that the small group table sessions are working on today is helping United Way understand how we can better leverage retirees and
older adults to help with volunteerism, not only to engage themselves, but also to help in the community.”
While Nichols’ Community Solutions Team is spearheading the effort, they were relying on the approximate 80-100 people in attendance to help
brainstorm for solutions and to get involved.
“The most important thing is falls are the major cause of death in the elderly,” Nichols said. “And to the degree that you prevent falls, you help
people stay independent and live at home. Also falls are very expensive if you are hospitalized. Now we are creating a new plan. And we are
continuing our proven successes, which are reducing falls, dealing with adverse drug events and we want to add to that nutrition and care
givers support. The people here are coming up with new ideas in these areas. We would like to hear from them rather than us thinking about
how it can be done.”
And the vice-chair of her team, Dr. Tim Bartholow, emphasized the importance of closely monitoring the number and types of prescription drugs
that seniors take.
“We also know that if we have people on 6-15 medications, they are much more likely to have a fall,” Bartholow said. “That’s why this work
around medication reconciliation is so important. We need quarterbacks for the patient that has many different medications. It takes the doctor
that says or the nurse that says that they aren’t adding an extra medication. This is a medication that actually does not help the patient enough
as to confuse how it is that they are already on a complicated medication regimen and how it has to be modified. Each patient has to have a
conversation with their peer team about that.”
Through a united community effort, hundreds more seniors will be able to live out their “golden years” safely and healthy thanks to the
coordination of United Way.
By Jonathan Gramling
Due to their sheer numbers, the Baby Boom generation has been a
dynamic social force since they came into their own in the 1960s
and early 1970s. And now as they begin to retire in record
numbers, they are also redefining the aging process with 70
becoming the new 60. But also with the sheer numbers and the
propensity for older adults to need more from our healthcare
system, a greater emphasis on prevention and assisted
independence is needed so that the medical and social service
systems are not overwhelmed beyond their capacity to serve or
society’s capacity to provide the resources.
On March 30, United Way of Dane County held Spotlight on Safe and Healthy Aging at the Warner
Park Community Center. Barbara Nichols, chair of United Way’s Self-Reliance and Independence
Community Solutions Team, laid out the coming challenge to Dane County’s human service and
“The Social Security Administration estimates that 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day,”
Nichols said. “Our work is more important now than ever — we are experiencing a tsunami of
older adults around the world. We have more than 64,000 older adults in Dane County, this
population has grown 23% since we began this work in 2010, and this growth is expected to
double by 2040. As the population of older adults increases, we see chronic health conditions
becoming more prevalent leading to an increase in medications consumed, and ultimately, an
increased risk for negative drug reactions and/or potential falls. For adults age 65 and older,
Wisconsin's death rate from falls is the nation's second highest and twice the national average.”
Five years ago, United Way brought together a cross section of professionals and community
members with expertise in aging issues to prepare for this dramatic increase in the senior adult
population to create a plan to counter some of the health and safety issues seniors face.
“Today we’re launching our new mobilization plan for safe and healthy aging for older adults,”
said Renee Moe, United Way’s CEO. “It fits into the larger United Way work of the Agenda for
Change and Education in Health — this is part of our health agenda — and we’ve had a series of
expert and older adults from the community, non-profits agencies, governmental representatives
and business representatives working for about a year and a half to update the plan on how to