Monday, May 14, 2012

Caldwell Live: How Collaborative Aging in Place Programs Change Organizations and Transform Communities

Caldwell LIVE, Lifelong Involvement for Vital Elders,  was designed to create an elder-friendly community where older residents can age in place with social supports, access to services, and meaningful activities that promote civic engagement, encourage independence, and help people stay safe and active in their own homes. With that goal in mind, Caldwell LIVE launched in the fall of 2008 to serve the borough’s nearly 1,000 residents over the age of 65. Caldwell, where 40 percent of the town’s 3,300 households included a resident 55 or older when the program began, offers easy walkability, a wide range of public and private services, and public transportation for seniors.
The program began as a federally funded NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) project modeled on the earlier successful Parsippany LIVE program. Both were implemented by UJC MetroWest. Support is provided by the US Administration on Aging and United Jewish Appeal and funded in part through a grant from the Mountainside Health Foundation.

Many different public, civic, and faith-based groups were invited to join in this collaborative project. The Caldwell roster includes: United Jewish Communities of MetroWest; Mountainside Hospital; JCC of MetroWest; Crane’s Mills CCRC; NJ TIP Travel Training; Jewish Family Service; Jewish Vocational Service; Metro Transport – Daughters of Israel; Caldwell Public Library; Caldwell Human Services; Essex County Division on Aging; Kiwanis Club; Rotary Club; Caldwell College; DOROT; Congregation Agudath Israel; First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell; St. Aloysius Catholic Church; St. Peter’s Episcopal Church; & the United Methodist Church.

The Caldwell Free Public Library was an obvious choice for participation. The Library is centrally located on Bloomfield Avenue, is easily reached via public transportation, and is right near the Caldwell Community Center. The Caldwell Live Coordinators, Karen Alexander, UJC MetroWest’s Director of Eldercare Services and Roberta Schoenberg, an expert on the elderly at Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, contacted Library Director Karen Kleppe-Lembo, who attended the presentation with Library Assistant Frances Larkey. Already in charge of adult programming, Larkey was a natural choice to spearhead the Library’s involvement with Caldwell LIVE.  Mrs. Larkey is a Caldwell resident with a BA in Art and a BN in Psychiatric Nursing. She has many connections within the town and had been looking for ways to involve seniors in Library programs.

So what does the Library have to offer to Caldwell LIVE and what has Caldwell LIVE given to the Library?

·         We host the monthly Feel Good Fridays programs for seniors. Representatives from Mountainside Hospital present timely topics on heart health, back pain, exercise, diabetes management, and other health and wellness topics.
·         Caldwell College presents some of their Lifelong Learning programs in our Library. We have hosted poetry workshops, knitting classes, art lectures and music appreciation classes.
·         The monthly Marian Manor Book Club came about as a way to bring the Library to a senior residence where residents might not be able to attend an in-library event. 

Some of the challenges presented to the Library were time management, staff allotment, competing priorities, and space. Our facilities aren’t large, but when a program is scheduled, we rearrange furniture and provide seating for 30+ patrons. With our dwindling budget (we are the lowest-funded library in Essex County) we saw a slight decrease in hours during the last year. Retiring staff members haven’t been replaced, putting a strain on coverage during programs and outreach. We always have to consider the needs of the community as a whole while ministering to a specific population group. When we present a program in the reading room, the room isn’t accessible to the rest of the community. If we schedule 4 senior-based programs a month, will we have the staff to cover other areas? Will we be able to run children’s programs concurrently? So far Mrs. Larkey has been able to do all this and more with the help of some very dedicated staff members and community partners.

We, as an institution, have received some positive benefits from our continued participation in Caldwell Live. The Caldwell Public Library’s visibility has been enhanced, and we are seen as a community player, always willing to enter into collaborative partnerships. Our staff members have learned of many opportunities for seniors which we then disseminate to the public. We feel that seniors have been able to connect with the library in positive ways, and we’ve received targeted staff development training. Feedback from the public has been very positive, and we feel that this has contributed to our budget remaining stable for FY 2012.

During the past four years, the program has worked to provide a wide range of community services for older adults, including Feel Good Friday health and wellness classes and talks at the Caldwell Library, participation in Caldwell College’s Lifelong Learning Institute, social work support, transportation assistance, home safety assessments, volunteer opportunities and spiritual caring programs. Each month the Caldwell LIVE calendar listing a variety of programs is mailed to older adults in the community, and is distributed through partner organizations. In addition to the programs offered by the library, the calendar includes health and educational programs including Move Today, a gentle exercise class; Caldwell College Lifelong Learning lectures; and Workshops on Using Public Transportation

In December, 2011, the program’s federal funding came to a close, but the program has already proven to be a sustainable model. The Caldwell LIVE calendar is still created by the borough’s Dept. of Human Services. The Caldwell Public Library continues to host the  Feel Good Friday health education programs with Mountainside Hospital, and will continue to develop more senior-friendly and intergenerational programming. We currently have a year’s worth of Feel Good Fridays on the calendar, and other programs include Lunch and Learn, Pizza and A Movie, and we are in talks to host another book club for seniors at the Caldwell Senior Center.  Students from Caldwell College have donated their time to teach seniors how to use the computer.  We also host the Caldwell Live partner meetings, where participants can come together and brainstorm joint offerings for the future.  Congregation Agudath Israel has continued to host the Wednesday Walking Club with a JCC of MetroWest volunteer coordinator. In addition, the West Essex Ministerial Association has continued the efforts of the Spiritual Caring Committee and partner agencies will still make and accept referrals for services from Caldwell residents. Caldwell LIVE partners continue to offer a variety of services including social work counseling, home maintenance, employment assistance and limited non-emergency medical transportation. Monetary donations have come from the Mountainside Health Foundation, the Kiwanis Club and the Rotary Club.  Sadly, federal earmarks for future NORC projects have been canceled.

Karen Alexander, director of eldercare services for Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, created the Caldwell LIVE model. Alexander explained that the aging in place program started in 2004 in Parsippany with a federal grant. The program expanded to Caldwell and Verona when additional funding was acquired through a federal earmark thanks to U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.).

Caldwell was chosen because there was a strong sense of community, the right demographics and it was well-served by public transit, among other reasons, Alexander said. She said the program has been used as a model at the American Society on Aging’s National Conference.

But the numbers speak for themselves. A survey of Caldwell LIVE participants revealed that 65% of survey respondents felt more confident in their ability to age in place, 87% said they were more knowledgeable of community resources and 87% said they have new friends.

It is our hope that all residents of Caldwell will make use of our library, but we're especially grateful that as people age and stay in place, we can continue to serve their needs. For more information please call the Library at 973-226-2837.