BY PAULA MINAERT — A new resource for seniors in Hyattsville arrived in December in the person of Emily Stowers, who fills the recently created position of senior-services coordinator. In the short time she’s been here, Stowers has ridden the Call-a-Bus, met with the Aging in Place group, toured the city in a police car, attended two holiday lunches and a bingo game – and has met many people while doing so.
The position is new, said Communications Manager Abby Sandel, but the concept of the city responding to senior residents’ concerns is not.
“The city knows this is a demographic shift that affects us. We have been successful in finding innovative ways to work in this area. We’ve had the Call-a-Bus program for years.”
Stowers was born and grew up in Florida and received her undergraduate degree in sociology at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She is halfway through earning a master’s in social work at The Catholic University of America.
Before coming to Hyattsville, Stowers was three years with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. She worked on a public-housing high-rise for seniors and adults with disabilities.
“I had the opportunity to really engage with seniors one-on-one, providing them with community resources, information and referrals,” she said. “A lot of the work focused on helping them maintain independence and live in place successfully.”
Stowers said that working in Hyattsville has more of a community organizing aspect to it, identifying needs and resources and making seniors aware of what’s available to them.
“A lot of the job will be comparing what’s available in the city and what the county offers. In Alexandria, everything came through the city. Here, some things are offered only by the county,” she explained. “And we’ll look at what’s not available and build on what can be made available and what we can do through other initiatives.”
One major initiative Stowers will introduce here is the Vial of Life program. It’s an information sheet for seniors and people with disabilities and it lists their medical conditions and prescriptions. The sheet goes on their refrigerators and a decal about it goes on their front doors. The idea, said Stowers, is to quickly provide police and first responders with critical information in case of emergency.
Stowers said the city’s role will be to offer help completing the forms.
“We’ll start at Friendship Arms. Our broader goal is to make this available to the wider community. It’s not a central repository; it’s private except in an emergency. Basically, the form speaks for you when you can’t speak for yourself.”
Stowers urged anyone interested in the Vial of Life program to contact her at 301.985.5058 during office hours Monday through Wednesday.
The Aging in Place group meets the first Wednesday of every month; the next meeting is February 1 at 7 p.m. in the municipal building.