Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County (CSSW) recently launched Ahead of the Curve, a web-based program designed to help older adults and caregivers.
The initiative includes an online, interactive resource directory; a self-guided assessment quiz; and a weekly blog. Starting in winter, there will also be a series of caregiver training videos.
"As baby boomers continue to age and the older adult population increases, we've created a unique program aimed at keeping older adults and their caregivers engaged in their community," says Rachael Dawson-Baglien, the initiative's coordinator.
The goal is to create a community of caregivers who are trained not only in identifying warning signs that a senior needs help, but are also savvy in how to get assistance.
"It's important because older adults are susceptible to isolation and are particularly vulnerable to falling through the cracks when it comes to obtaining services," Dawson-Baglien says.
CSSW's research has also shown that caregivers are less likely to reach out for help or services if they haven't had formal training or don’t personally identify as caregivers. The result is a number of caregivers in Washtenaw County who are working without the support they need.
"Ahead of the Curve will help by empowering them to search online for the helpers and resources that fit their unique needs," Dawson-Baglien says. "... If someone isn't certain what services they need, they can start by taking the self-guided quiz, which will generate suggested resources based on the person's responses."
Food assistance, housing, transportation, mental health services, crisis support, legal support, and social opportunities are some of the resources users can find through Ahead of the Curve.
The blog section, which will be updated every Wednesday, explores topics such as aging, notable older adults in Washtenaw County, and interviews with people from local agencies that serve seniors.
Dawson-Baglien says response to the initiative has been positive so far.
"A recurring theme we have heard was that there was a lack of a central resource guide," she says. "Now connecting older adults to resources is quick, easy, and can be done by everyone online."
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County.