Email, Facetime, telehealth, online shopping, bill paying … digital devices put communications and services at our fingertips, but only if you have access and know-how, which many seniors lack. A new partnership between Solid Ground’s RSVP and CIRC aims to change that.
CIRC, a nonprofit organization, provides affordable housing and support services to 40 properties throughout the Puget Sound region and manages and operates 15 of them. Approximately 90% of the 7,000 residents are older adults, 50% of whom are severely rent burdened.
CIRC resident services is made up of program managers and resident service coordinators who are community “concierges,” assisting residents with daily living challenges. Creating safe and stable home environments, facilitating conflict resolution, and helping with paperwork for residential and government-supported services are some of their hands-on activities.
They’re part of a valuable information and referral hub for financial assistance, physical and behavioral health care, food insecurity and nutritional challenges, transportation, and educational activities.
CIRC’s Four Pillars Approach:
1) Real Homes that Make a Real Difference
2) Empowering Choice
3) Community, Collaboration & Support
4) Purpose, Not Profit
CIRC partners with service providers and cultural and community groups to build neighborhood networks within two miles of each property. Networks are individualized to meet the needs of each living community.
Food pantries are an example of how resident services use the “four pillars approach” to address the food insecurity and nutritional challenges of seniors living on low or fixed incomes. They connect residents with a community partner, such as a local food bank or charitable organization, to supply the food.
Building trust and community through collaboration, resident volunteers receive the equipment, tools, and training to run their own food banks and make operational decisions to meet their community’s needs.
Residents value the food banks for both the actual food and peace of mind. For some residents, the food they receive through CIRC makes up their entire weekly food budget. In 2022, these food banks served over 20,000 meals!
Despite any physical frailties, most residents feel they still have something to offer: They want to give back to their community, they want to leverage their strengths to make their world a better place, and they all want to be treated with dignity. Residents serving residents meet these needs.
CIRC’s community health advocates focus on supporting residents’ healthcare and wellness needs. They assist residents to communicate with their healthcare providers, understand treatment options, and make their own decisions.
Partnerships with nursing and social work students address residents’ physical and emotional needs. Fitness classes keep participants active, and emergency preparedness training supports safe communities.
Bridging the digital divide is CIRC’s latest initiative to give residents tools for success. The benefits to older adults are much the same as for younger adults:
Access to telehealth connects residents with primary care providers and critical care.
- Keeping in touch via quick messages, leisurely phone calls, or video chats with family and friends eases loneliness and isolation.
- Playing online puzzles and games exercises cognition and memory muscles.
- Sharing hobbies and interests in community groups facilitates social connections.
- Online shopping removes transportation and mobility issues.
- Medication management apps, audiobooks, and exercise apps help older adults enjoy a high quality of life.
Residents will receive in-person training and coaching from volunteers to use their devices. There’s a big need for technology support now that more activities are moving online, which increases accessibility for older adults as well as those with mobility and transportation issues. RSVP’s new Digital Navigators volunteers aim to address this need.
CIRC plans to start the Digital Navigators program at three of its residences located in Auburn, south Seattle, and Kirkland. Community members at these locations have expressed interest in both volunteering and receiving assistance, and they look forward to working with and learning from other seniors – people with similar life experiences who understand their needs well.
For more information about this partnership, please contact RSVP Coordinator Megan Wildhood at email@example.com or 206.694.6786.
About RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program)
- RSVP is an AmeriCorps Seniors program that engages people age 55 and older in a diverse range of volunteer activities. Sponsored locally by Solid Ground, we match RSVP volunteers with opportunities to meet community needs at approximately 40 partner organizations.
- EIA (Experience in Action) is RSVP’s member newsletter, printed three times a year.
- This piece by EIA contributor Gwen Campbell appears in SPRING 2023 EIA: Innovation.
- Are you 55+ and want to get involved? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org!