A simple refrain repeated in our community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been “better together.”
We see T-shirts and other items emblazoned with this message. And, if we are truly better together, then we must apply this sentiment especially when our needs are not a shared experience of a global pandemic but the daily needs of living life as an aging adult or person with a disability.
In fact, there are many similarities in the services older adults and people with disabilities need to live independently. Thankfully, within our community, we have exceptional organizations uniquely equipped and committed to supporting people navigating life with a disability or the journey of aging.
Helping people retain independence and dignity is why the services at Turnstone and other local organizations are critical. At Turnstone, thousands of community members are empowered to achieve their goals and experience their fullest lives for as long as possible through outpatient therapy, adaptive fitness, adult day services and memory care programs.
The League also provides exceptional supports for people with disabilities, helping them acquire the training, guidance, peer support, tools, equipment and more to support their navigation of the world around them. Perhaps most significantly, The League also plays a key role in advocating for more and better accessibility so everyone can enjoy the benefits of our vibrant community.
When a spectrum of more direct support becomes needed for a person's independence, Lutheran Life Villages provides residential options with access to therapy and other services to promote wellness and active living. The experience at Lutheran Life Villages highlights the importance of peer-to-peer interaction, which is vital to mental health, especially for those who have disabilities or are aging.
Navigating between these agencies and others you will find the Community Transportation Network, providing transportation for residents including seniors and those with disabilities. Access to transportation continues to be one of the greatest challenges, with many isolated in their own homes from support agencies and social opportunities until someone can give them a ride.
And, when more intimate support is needed for families and people managing chronic disease, serious illness or terminal diagnoses, Visiting Nurse provides the compassionate and expert care most needed to continue living life as fully as possible. Visiting Nurse tailors care plans to ensure that all of a person's needs are met. And family members of all ages and abilities are not forgotten in these care plans, with supports provided throughout every step of the process.
Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we know that one in four people are born with or have acquired a disability sometime in their life; two in five people older than 65 have a disability; and, most of us will have the fortune of experiencing the natural effects of aging despite our sometimes prideful tendency to deny that reality.
The data paints an important picture that it could be us, or a loved one, who will need the services, resources or supports that others are using today.
When our community commits to serving one another holistically, comprehensively and inclusively, we all live better lives for it. Thankfully, our community is headed in the right direction in this area, but we cannot lose sight of knowing we are always better when we support the needs of our neighbors together.
Mike Mushett is CEO of Turnstone Center and a member of Alliance for Human Services.