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Seniors Get Help Aging in Place

A recent survey of Darien senior citizens found that 90 percent of them plan to live at home "as long as possible." That doesn't mean that they don't need a little help now and then. That's where Alyssa Israel and Aging in Place come in.

After reading about program called Beacon Hill Village in Massachusetts, that helps seniors who wanted to live at home rather than in an assisted living facility, members of the Community Fund of Darien wanted to start a similar program here. After months spent talking with other organizations and residents on how to best serve Darien seniors living at home, they started Aging in Place in 2008 and hired Israel as the program coordinator.

"Many people were isolated and had no understanding of what all the difference services are in the community that could help them," said Kiki Karpen, currently the fund's excecuitve director. Aging in Place publishes a newsletter, Out and About, that lets seniors know about upcoming events and useful programs run by other town organizations. The group also sponsors lectures and seminars on specific topics, such as managing medications and avoiding accidents in the home.

Israel said most of her job, however, is referrals. She personally vets handymen, landscapers, counselors, and other services based on rates for seniors, insurance coverage and character references. Aging in Place members are welcome to call Israel for a recommendation when they need help around their house, and she provides a list of options. "Some people call a lot, and they really depend on me," Israel said. "And some just call once ... and they've gotten the service they needed."

For example, if someone needed help getting around town, Israel might refer them to The Gallivant, a minivan that takes seniors to doctors appointments and the supermarket for suggested donations, or the Department of Social Services' half-price taxi voucher program, which Aging in Place helped start through its networking with other social service agencies.

Although the program has been funded by the Community Fund since it began, Aging in Place is now taking steps to strike out on its own. Karpen is now in the process of looking for an advisory board to start the transition and see how the program will operate on its own. "There is a huge need for this," Karpen said. "It does have sustainability, it's just a question of how that moves forward."

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