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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Growing Old in Howard County Ain’t for Sissies!

     One of the statistics that came out of the 2010 Census was that Howard County had a rapidly aging population.  While the Baby Boomers have been aging the US population generally, the aging in Howard County is exaggerated because of the large influx of young families into the County in the 1970’s and 80’s.  The median age in Howard County is now almost 38.  Over the next 10-15 years the percentage of residents 55 and older will increase to about 30% of the total population.  In 2004 the County Planning Office of Planning and Zoning released a Senior Housing Master Plan that discussed the housing situation and needs for this older population.  What they found was summarized in their report,
“Nearly 70% of the County’s older adults want to remain in their homes or nearby. This phenomenon of “aging in place” requires strategies that address both the physical features of housing and the access to services available in the community. The County’s Office on Aging provides a range of services to residents who want to remain in their homes, but its resources need to be increased. The Plan also highlights “Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities”, or NORCs, which are geographic areas where more than 50% of the residents are 65 years or older. NORCs are found throughout Howard County, with Columbia and Ellicott City having the highest concentrations. These communities should be targets for increasing access to a range of services, including home repair and modifications, transportation and in-home health care.”

 Today the concept of “aging in place” is the goal of many of the programs for the elderly in Howard County.  A few years ago the Horizon Foundation funded the Howard County Office on Aging to examine how prepared the County was to address the needs of its aging population and to recommend the development of the needed supportive services.  The focus of this initiative was on the areas of home repair and remodeling, mental health, fall prevention and affordable in home services.

Today a new grant funded program called Opting for Independence (OFI), an aging in place program, is operated by The Coordinating Center, a statewide nonprofit that has helped thousands of persons with complex medical needs live successfully in their communities for the past 28 years.  This three year project (ending 9/30/2011) is funded through the Community Innovations for Aging in Place launched by the federal Administration on Aging in 2009.   Only fourteen of these projects exist nationally, and Maryland’s is one of the few to involve case management for older adults.  The Howard County program is operating in three Howard zip codes of 21043, 21044, and 21045.   The purpose of the grant is to find innovative ways to help older adults wishing to remain at home draw on available resources, and to try out new ideas that result in Howard County organizations learning new ways of supporting older adults.
OFI has three parts.  The first links a care coordination team with persons over age 65 of any income who want to remain at home but are living with health issues that make staying at home more difficult.  The goal of this part of the project is to help adults learn new ways to accomplish their goals of aging in the home and community of their choice.  The team is headed by a care coordinator who works directly with the person and family members to help assess what is needed to help the older adult meet their goals and priorities.  

The second part of OFI is a Case Study project, directly by project manager Rusty Toler in partnership with members of the 2011 class of Leadership Howard County.  The purpose of the study is to find out what a representative group of older adults in 21044 and 21045 thought about their aging future and what they might be planning in order to remain where they are currently living.  Using qualitative research guidance and training from the New York Academy of Medicine’s Center for Evaluation and advice from Howard Community College’s Executive Director of Planning, Research, and Organizational Development, Toler and Leadership developed an interview guide, recruited volunteers to conduct the thirty five interviews, and identified willing participants to be interviewed over a month’s period this summer.  The interviewees were recruited through PATH, National Association of Retired and Active Federal Employees, Howard County Office on Aging, and announcements in the Columbia Flier.  

The third part of OFI is a project designed to increase the social engagement of OFI enrollees through involvement in a life review process.  The details are in development by the Office on Aging, but the intent is for volunteers to be used to work with enrollees to hear personal stories of their past and have these stories presented to the community in a public arts event.  To accomplish this part of OFI, the Office on Aging and TCC have partnered with the National Center for Creative Aging and the Howard County Arts Council.
Since the launch of this part of the project in October, 2010, OFI has enrolled over 125 older adults, and is actively working with 90-100 individuals at this time, through regular visits and phone contact.  Of the 25 no longer active, almost half have achieved their goals and no longer need regular contact.  Some chose not to complete the enrollment process, but will be able to access the program in the future.  The remaining adults have either moved into a nursing home, moved out of state, or are deceased.   
Future of OFI
The result of OFI will be to test whether this person centered care coordination can be successful in supporting the goals of older adults to age in place.  After the grant period ends, The Coordinating Center plans to expand this approach to other zip codes in Howard County and to other Maryland Counties.  

P. S.
Can anyone guess where this picture was taken?
P.S. 2
Having spent the week in January in Tucson in which Gabby Gifford was shot and having driven by the shopping center where it occurred I was amazed that she voted in Congress yesterday.  Amazing woman.


HDG said...

Interesting post. Thanks for writing it.

Pic is from Sewell's Orchard Pond.

hoco connect said...

Right you are!

Jessie said...

Seen Bill Santos' wrap-up of Hoco Census data (by generation) from 1970 - 2010. Great stuff.