The 21st century is predominated by technological advances and the shock of an ever-changing world. Everything is moving at an increasingly frenetic pace. A consequence of this modern, fast-paced society has been a new demographic makeup. This has been especially evident in the developed world; people are born, they grow up, and they age. This fundamental biological reality hasn’t changed, but advances in health and family planning have increased the longevity of seniors. At the same time, families have decreased in size. The effect is an exponential increase of seniors surpassing any previous epoch and even planners’ expectations.
It has put a great deal of stress on old societal norms, in which families provided care for their elders directly. It was much easier for a family containing five or more siblings to care for a senior with a life expectancy of 70 and who didn’t have many of the health issues that older seniors face today.
The stresses of today’s market forces also play an increasing role. Whereas family members once had enough time to dedicate to their elders, today’s fast-paced economy sees many family caregivers swamped with responsibilities and unable to balance work and personal life. This has led to ever-increasing cases of isolation among seniors and, as a consequence, an unheard-of increase in societal issues and health problems.
Among the central questions facing society has been: “How do we care for so many at-risk seniors?” and, “How can we avoid social isolation and spiraling health issues amongst seniors?”
Stanislaus County has an answer, affirming its commitment to helping, bringing hope, and improving the lives of its older citizens. This will to action has been made a reality through Project Hope.
What is Project Hope?
Developed by the SCAAA (Stanislaus County Area Agency on Aging) and funded through the offices of the CMHS (California Mental Health Services), Project Hope aims to help improve the quality of life amongst Stanislaus County’s population of seniors 60 years or older. A myriad of programs are geared toward preventing and combating social isolation and deteriorating health issues amongst seniors. Many programs are adapted to seniors’ needs depending on their health and social situations. The project also helps analyze seniors’ health care and social needs and refers them to different services within the county in the hope of avoiding further deterioration in the quality of life.
How Does Project Hope Work?
“To each, according to their needs” might be a good way to describe the way Project Hope functions.
For seniors in need of greater social interaction, the project offers its Friendly Visitor program. This program makes use of volunteers whose main role is visiting seniors and helping rehabilitate seniors’ social interaction skills. They help create new social networks.
Another important program is Senior Peer Counseling. These volunteers tend to be seniors themselves, helping create a rapport with their charges through a shared generational experience. In more complicated cases, the project provides professional counselors and social workers.
Project hope goes further than just counseling and helping the elderly socialize. It also functions as an early detection system for issues and health problems that may be plaguing seniors in the county. It also helps refer seniors to the appropriate services and programs. By doing so, they work as an early warning system, as well as effectively preventing the deterioration of seniors’ health, as well as a further descent into social isolation in the county.