A Lifeline for Vermont Seniors
In 1974, Vermont designated Age Well as the Area Agency on Aging for Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle Counties. The agency provides a wide array of services for older Vermonters, their families, and their caregivers, carrying out programs authorized by the Older Americans Act, which empowers local organizations to create a coordinated system of services for older people across the country.
Great leaders have said the test of any community is how it treats its most vulnerable. And we have certainly been put to the test during the Covid Pandemic. Older Adults, our most vulnerable population, have needed more support than ever before.
“At Age Well we believe health happens at home”, said Director of Business Development and Communication, Tracey Shamberger. The agency focuses on lifestyle, happiness, and welfare, not on age. The goal of Age Well is to provide Vermonters with support to manage their daily living needs while keeping active, healthy, and independent, at home, where they want to be. The vision at Age Well is to use our Vermont experience to be a nationally recognized and collaborative leader in the aging network. Age Well programs enhance the quality of life and improve health outcomes. The mission is “to provide the support and guidance that inspires our community to embrace aging with confidence.” There is no charge for Age Well’s services.
One of Age Well’s best-known programs is Meals on Wheels, which can serve a person for an entire year for the same cost as one day in a hospital or ten days at a nursing home.
According to Meals on Wheels of America, in 2021, 27% of the state’s population was over 60, making Vermont the third oldest state in the nation. Over 20,000 of Vermonters over 60 years of age are threatened by hunger. Age Well’s Meals on Wheels clients report that they eat healthier food thanks to the program “Age Well has given me hope in so many ways,” a client named Dallas said. “Meals on Wheels brightens my day with the contact of the person delivering my meals.” In 2021, Age Well’s dedicated team of volunteers delivered over 300,000 meals.
Age Well has a team of over 1,000 volunteers who assist with delivering Meals on Wheels, errands, minor home repairs, transportation, yard work, organizing, building wheelchair ramps, and helping clients with technological or financial questions. Some volunteers simply provide a friendly face while others have received specific training on how to assist those with cognitive impairments or dementia. Many volunteers believe they get as much out of the experience as those they assist. “I felt like I hit the jackpot when I joined the folks at Age Well,” said Susyn Dees. “I was humbled to find out what extensive needs there are and it makes me more appreciative of everything I have.” A college student named Henry found similar gratification in assisting in the Community Meals program. “As a student and a young adult, I find that I spend too much time wrapped up in my own head and problems,” he said. “Working at a nursing home in high school opened my eyes to the benefits of caring for others. The knowledge that you are doing something meaningful for another person makes my day better.”
Age Well services also include care and service coordination, in home visits and community resources. A statewide Helpline is available to the community daily. The helpline provides resources on a variety of topics including adult day programs, caregiver support, home health services, housing, transportation, legal services, long-term care, Meals on Wheels, community meal programs, nutritional counseling, Medicare and other health insurance support, mental health services, nursing and residential facilities, prescription assistance programs, senior centers, SSI and Social Security, support groups, and 3Squares Vermont. The Helpline can be reached at 1-800-642-5119.
Older adults who are able to travel can take advantage of Age Well’s Community Meals, Gran=b and Go Meals & Restaurant Ticket Program. This provides the opportunity for people to stay connected to their community while sharing meals with friends and neighbors throughout northwestern Vermont. These programs combat social isolation, in addition to providing healthy, delicious and nutritious food.
Age Well also provides clients with assistance navigating Medicare through its State Health Insurance Program (SHIP). Their SHIP program assists with assessing eligibility for benefits, making informed decisions, protecting yourself against fraud, and more.
Recognizing that exercise is beneficial in remaining healthy, Age Well offers free Tai Chi classes at a dozen locations in its coverage area. Shamberger said, “Tai Chi has been endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation and the Center for Disease Control and Injury Prevention for reducing stiffness and pain, and keeping mobile”. Age Well provides free beginners’ classes in person and online, for individuals 60 and over, taught by certified trainers.
Many older Vermonters turn to Age Well when they are returning home from a hospital or rehab facility. The agency provides support and services regardless of income. Transitioning from the hospital or rehabilitation can be difficult, Age Well comes to this process with expertise, patience, and the commitment to make returning home successful.
“This is an exciting time for Vermont as we focus on the needs of our older populations over the next decade,” said Age Well CEO Jane Catton.
To learn more about Age Well’s free services visit AgeWellVT.org or call 800-642-5119.