Offering Alternatives for Aging at Home

This column visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amelia Blades Steward has been a freelance writer in our community for over 15 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.

Seniors trying to age at home are faced with decisions every day, which can be overwhelming. It may be as simple as having a lightbulb changed that they can’t reach or as complex as how to navigate doctor’s appointments after an illness or injury.

Maryland Community for LifeTM-Talbot (previously known as Talbot Village Connections) and selected as one of the first Community for Life Programs by the Maryland Department of Aging, offers innovative options for safe and healthy aging for seniors aged 65 and older who live in Talbot County and wish to live independently in their own homes. The Maryland Department of Aging launched partnerships with several non-profit organizations to help people live at home longer, while helping to prevent issues that require higher and more expensive levels of care, such as assisted-living. Maryland Community for LifeTM-Talbot is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization operating as a component fund of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.

By 2030 Talbot County is projected to have 40 percent of its population over age 60. Marion Donahue, RN, MS, co-founder and Board Vice President of Maryland Community for LifeTM-Talbot, explains, “Most people need some kind of help beginning in their late 70s and 80s, and some sooner.” She adds, “Sometimes people think they are not ready for this service. But what we say is you may not be ready for it now, but if you invest in this now, it will be there when you are ready. One neighbor signed up to be a Member and a Volunteer. She thinks of it as an insurance policy. That’s planning for the future.”

This fee-based membership program, supported by paid staff and volunteers, offers its members a variety of services. Membership is open to individuals or households up to three people aged 65 and older who live in Talbot County. Core services are personalized to individual needs. The Service Navigator works with members to create a program that fits needs now and can be adapted as needs and circumstances change. Among the services offered are the following:

SERVICE NAVIGATOR: Personalized service and referrals to community services

HOME MAINTENANCE: Up to four hours per month of minor home repairs

HOME MAINTENANCE ASSESSMENT: A one-time, in-home assessment of your house

TRANSPORTATION: Up to eight round-trip rides per month to locations within Talbot County

SOCIAL & EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS: Monthly programs for socialization and/or education on positive aging and supporting connections within the community

According to member Shirley Sallet, “Having transportation readily available means I can keep up with medical appointments, book club, writing group, library visits, YMCA activities, and volunteer work. The big bonus, which is the icing on the cake, is that I have enjoyed making new friends.”

Maryland Community for LifeTM-Talbot member Shirley Sallet (right) and volunteer Joyce Glackin run errands together.

Service Navigator Stacey Woodworth helps members navigate any issues that develop. Among the most common requests have been requests for transportation. She states, “A membership in Maryland Community for LifeTM-Talbot offers peace of mind to older adults and their adult children by providing needed services and opportunities for social engagements.”

Member Mary Lou McAllister of St. Michaels, comments, “Whenever I make an appointment, I know I will always have transportation. I have really enjoyed meeting the volunteers and making new friendships.”

The Maryland Community for LifeTM-Talbot Volunteer Corps supports and serves the needs of its members. Volunteers are vetted, trained, and offered service opportunities that match their skills and interests. Some members also serve as volunteers.

According to the organization, the U.S. is becoming an aging society whose institutions have not yet adapted to serve the “tsunami” of seniors. Volunteers are becoming the frontline responders supporting and serving the changing needs of elders.

For seniors, volunteer service has a benefit to increasing mental, social and emotional resiliency. Maryland Community for LifeTM-Talbot is seeking volunteers who are interested in providing transportation, technology support, handyman work, phone-call check-ins and office support.

Volunteer Sarah Sayre comments, “As a volunteer I get to meet interesting people and I contribute to an organization that I may need in the future.”

The cost of being a member of Maryland Community for LifeTM-Talbot is $80 a month.  Payments can be made monthly or quarterly. The organization is committed to being good community stewards and to serve those in need. It has established a Scholarship Fund to support lower-income Talbot County citizens. Initially, through a partnership with the United Fund, and now with Christmas in St. Michaels and other donors, more scholarships will be available to low-income seniors to help cover the cost of the membership.

The organization is sponsoring a Positive Aging Educational Series this spring for members and the public. On March 21 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Talbot County Library in St. Michaels, there will be a meet the author and book signing for the book, Reboot! What to do When Your Career is Over and Your Life Isn’t, by Phil Burgess. On April 18, at Talbot Hospice House, there will be a presentation on “Healthcare Decisions,” focusing on determining our own wishes for medical treatment when we are no longer able to make those decisions for ourselves. Time to be determined. Monthly social events also bring members and volunteers together for meals, movies, and special events.

Maryland Community for LifeTM-Talbot is located at 10 South Hanson Street, Suite 18, in Easton. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To become a member or volunteer, email communityforlifetalbot@gmail.com or call 410-443-0760. For information, visit mdcommunityforlifetalbot.org.

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