SWCAA Annual Meeting
I was invited to attend the SWCAA (Southwestern Connecticut Agency on Aging) annual meeting last Thursday October 17, 2019 at Testo’s Restaurant in Bridgeport, CT.
It was to a packed house that the agency celebrated the retirements of long time members and welcomed new additions to the agency’s leadership.
For those who may not be aware, the agency serves over 10,000 clients and delivered more than 70,000 meals last year. They also supported so many other groups that provide services that support those in our aging community, many of whom don’t have the resources to live comfortably in their elder years. The work they do, as well as the work of all of those who are in their network is so critical to getting more support to a growing group of people who will need “more” from us in the future. For more information about SWCAA and its services, please head to their website: https://www.swcaa.org.
Marie Allen, the Executive Director of SWCAA, gave a great speech exemplifying the mission of the agency as advocates for an audience that is often the “quietest, oldest, poorest, and sickest” in our communities. We don’t usually think of our elders as a marginalized community, but the facts suggest otherwise, particularly as many withdraw from their communities due to choice or due to health conditions that force them to withdraw. SWCAA and its friends help connect these people with the services they need, and to paraphrase what Marie stated, while they are the quietest group in our communities, they are quietly saying thank you!
Their keynote speaker Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CADDCT, CLL is a gerontologist and Certified Dementia Practitioner and she discussed the very REAL issue in elder care of isolation and loneliness. She hammered home something that I hadn’t really thought about before, but I think merits a consideration. Social Isolation and Loneliness are VERY different ideas. Social Isolation can be a result of many things that contribute to one becoming more isolated (i.e., loss of driver’s license, inability to travel, income limitations, etc.), but loneliness is the internal emotion that drives sadness and depression by feeling alone in the world. As we age longer, these emotions will likely become more prevalent, but there are many things we can do to help (including volunteering, getting in touch with agencies that know of services available for loved ones, and more).
One other thing she hammered home was how important it is to laugh. As a laugh therapist she had the crowd in attendance get up, connect and laugh with each other. She asked us to rate our stress and energy levels pre-exercise and post-exercise. I have to admit, it worked. I’m pretty even-keeled and rated my stress as a “5” pre exercise, but a 3 post exercise because it was genuinely fun! If you’re feeling like you need a “pick me up”, laugh therapy might be right for you!
If you are a caregiver or if you are aging, I strongly suggest you look for the Agency on Aging that services your community. You can find them by searching online or potentially looking to your local Senior Center. Once you sit down with them, you will start to see just how quickly you’ll see how your options and knowledge expand!