As part of our ongoing effort to highlight the work of our clients, Community Vision has begun site tours of the organizations we have worked with for our staff and board members who may not always have the opportunity to see the wonderful work they do. Our last tour was at the Institute on Aging (IOA), which provides community-based services for seniors, including programs that enable people to receive the services they need while continuing to live at home. Janna Mancini, a Development Associate at Community Vision, wrote the following impression of IOA:
My father has been a Nursing Home Administrator for over 30 years so my sisters and I spent a lot of our childhood attending events at the nursing homes that he oversaw. We used to love going with him to the summer barbeques or holiday parties that they held. We would sit with the patients and chat away – they’d get some much needed company and we’d get lots of attention and not a few bits of candy. As we got older we tended to join him less and less for these events. Part of it was that we were selfish teenage girls and part of it was that as we grew up we were better able to understand the sad fact that not everyone grows old in their own home, surrounded by family and supported until the peaceful end. Years later, as I watched my grandfather and both my grandmothers spend their last days in the care of the nursing home where my father worked, I understood why so often families don’t visit – its hard and its sad and none of us like to face the reality of growing old quite like that – and why my father’s work meant so much but took a lot out of him.
Touring the Institute of Aging, I was struck by how unlike my past experiences it was. It didn’t feel like a hospital or a place of last resort for people who had no one to care for them and nowhere else to go. It felt like a home. Even the areas where the daytime programs took place had a welcoming and comforting feeling to them. I don’t think we encountered one person – patient or staff – who wasn’t smiling and that feeling is infectious the moment you walk through the doors. It seems that with more effort and thought, but not that much more financial investment, we as a society could ensure that those seniors who don’t enjoy financial security and family support are able live their last years in such a warm, caring environment. Seeing the wonderful work the staff at IOA does made me happy and gave me hope but it also made me feel angry and sad – sad because I know there are many seniors who don’t have access to such wonderful programs and angry because, as a society that so often gives lip service to respecting seniors and their contributions (past and present), we are often unwilling to put our money where our mouth is.