Winning Programs Aid Homeless Elders, Ease End of Life

Article excerpt

The 2005 Healthcare and Aging Awards honored seven exciting and innovative programs around the United States offering solutions to problems ranging from serving elders in the Alaskan wilderness to preventing homelessness among urban elders in Boston. Aging Today's May-June 2005 issue highlighted three of of the winners. (see "Health and Aging Winners From Remote Alaska to Chicago" at www.aging today.org and click on the May-June 2005 issue under "Back Issues.") And the March-April issue of this newspaper described the Oregon State University Extension Service program Maximizing Brief Encounters: Realizing Measurable Gain, a Healthcare and Aging Award winner that also won one of ASA's 2005 MindAlert Awards ("2005 MindAlert Awards Honor U.S. and Canadian Programs," also available online). In addition, our September-October issue will include a profile of the SAGE-Boston Collaborative to End Intimate Partner Abuse Among Older Women as part of a special "In Focus" section on elder abuse.

In this issue, Aging Today profiles two additional Healthcare and Aging Award winners, one from Boston, the other from Florida's Suncoast area. The kudos are presented annually by the American Society on Aging's Healthcare and Aging Network and sponsored by the Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative.

ENDING ELDER HOMELESSNESS

"We were astonished at the dedication and efficiency of this small group," said Blanca Ramirez. "Their hard work actually put us a full day ahead of schedule!" Ramirez, volunteer coordinator for Boston's Committee to End Elder Homelessness (CEEH), sang the praises of four volunteers from the city's Executive Office of Elder Affairs, who stripped the kitchen and living room clean, packing everything neatly in the basement by 10:30 a.m. Their supercharged effort was part of a massive volunteer push to refurbish CEEH's Bishop Street home for nine older women, who were homeless or at ' risk of homelessness.

The volunteer blitz was organized and videotaped last spring by WCVB-TV Channel 5's new Extreme Makeover: Boston Edition, the station's local version of ABC-TV'S hit program, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The station selected Bishop Street, one of five CEEH service-rich sites for homeless Bostonians, following construction of a new addition to the building, including a completely renovated communal kitchen. Channel 5 helped bring together volunteers from local businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions, who logged in nearly 450 volunteer hours stripping wallpaper; painting six rooms and two hallways; demolishing the old kitchen; tearing up flooring; cleaning the large Victorian windows; cleaning, packing and unpacking items from the kitchen and living room; decorating the rooms; and providing meals for the residents while their kitchen was out of service. Corporate donors contributed new furniture and appliances.

FIVE SITES

CEEH, a national research-based program, was also honored last spring with a 2005 Healthcare and Aging Award. The nonprofit agency, started in 1991, now provides five affordable, permanent housing sites with supportive services, an extensive outreach program, and integrated health services and wellness programs.

CEEH President and CEO Elisabeth Babcock explained that the organization's model integrates housing, mental health, medical and social-service supports in a manner that permits even very frail elders to live with considerable independence in their own apartments. She added, "The cost of CEEH housing is less than one-third the costs, of institutional alternatives such as nursing home care."

At its five locations, CEEH houses about 115 residents, men and women age 50 or older who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Most are very low income, frail and have complex mental, physical and substance abuse problems, Babcock said. Slightly more than half are men, 48% are African American, 47% white, and the rest are Latino, American Indian or Asian. …