Auntie Diluviana: Catching up with senior services
I read a year or two ago that the city of Hyattsville had hired a senior services coordinator. I haven’t heard much since. Can you tell me what she’s been doing?
— Curious Reader
Funny you should ask, Curious. We recently stopped by the office of the Hyattsville Senior Services Coordinator Emily Stowers to find out what she’s been up to. Turns out that she’s been up to a lot.
Emily was appointed to the newly created part-time position in 2011. When she’s not in her office at the municipal building, she’s out in the community, meeting and working with older people in Hyattsville. In addition to her activities for the city, she’s working on a master’s degree in social work at Catholic University.
You probably have heard about some of the activities Emily has started, such as the Aging Gracefully Education Series (AGES). These programs on health and wellness have featured speakers from the American Heart Association and the Arthritis Foundation, who discussed and answered questions about those conditions.
In October, at the start of the open enrollment for Medicare, the city sponsored a program to answer questions about changes to Medicare. (And who doesn’t have questions?) Emily is planning another session on Medicare next fall but in the meantime, seniors with questions about the federal health-care program can call her at 301.985.5058.
“Medicare needs to be talked about,” Emily said, because the government makes some changes in the program every year, although those changes usually don’t affect everyone. People call with specific questions, she said, “and every question is unique.”
Another activity sponsored by the city’s senior services program is an exercise program for older people. The classes run for 10 weeks and three 10-week sessions are planned for next year. When in session the class meets from 10 to 11 a.m. Fridays in the Magruder Park recreation center. The first winter session begins Jan. 3.
In addition, the city has a regular health and wellness program for seniors who live at the Friendship Arms apartment building.
Recreation is another component of the city’s activities for older people. On December 19, a holiday party is planned for 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hyattsville Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin Street.
Emily also works with individual seniors with various needs, by phone or in person. She said that most of the needs she has encountered are for medical services, such as in-home care. A need for affordable housing is reflected in many calls. If the city cannot help the caller directly, Emily will suggest the appropriate state, county or nonprofit agency.
Recently, she has been working with other city agencies to improve the city’s call-a-bus program that provides transportation to seniors on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The most common requests are for rides to grocery stores or medical appointments, she said.
The city has streamlined the Call-a-Bus registration process so that registration materials, information about the service, and an identification card are mailed to every person who calls Emily or otherwise expresses interest in the service. Then, when the application is approved, he or she is ready to go.
In the coming year, Emily said she plans to spend more time out in the community in different ways. For example: “I want to make stronger connections to faith-based organizations. Many have senior outreach programs.”
Another part of her job, she said, is to bring awareness of the needs of seniors to the community at large and to change, in some cases, how seniors are viewed by others. Every time she makes a connection, within the city or without, she is working toward that goal, she said.
We asked her what she has learned about Hyattsville in the time she has been on the job.
“There is a tremendous desire in the community for positive change,” she said. This is reflected, she said, by such organizations as Hyattsville Aging in Place, which was started by older residents, and by individuals, including seniors, who respond to local needs.
To find out more about these or other programs sponsored by Hyattsville Senior Services, call Coordinator Emily Stowers at 301.985.5058.