Meeting the needs of older people at the community level


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Meeting the needs of older people at the community level
Physical Description:
14 p. : ;
United States -- Office of Aging
U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Welfare Administration, Office of Aging :
For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O.
Place of Publication:
Washington, D.C.
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Subjects / Keywords:
Older people -- Services for -- United States   ( lcsh )
federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


General Note:
"OA no. 223"--T.p. verso.

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University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 028271533
oclc - 21700600
lcc - HV1461 .U66 1965
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Full Text

the Needs
at the

Director, Office of Aging
Welfare Administration
U.S. Department of
Health, Education, and Welfare

THE TOPIC you have suggested seems
very appropriate. For to me the most
significant fact is that we are meeting the
needs of older people at the community
level. And I am going to approach the
topic from the viewpoint of what the com-
munity is, what the needs are, and how
we can go about meeting them.
At the outset I should point out that
there appears to be agreement that the
community is basic. We have come to
recognize that our programs, if they are
to be successful, must be community-
based. It is here that the individual
grows up, lives, and works; and it is with
his friends and neighbors that his needs
must be met and services must be pro-

I would like to make it clear that, while
I am going to be discussing the commu-
nity, there is no need to put the com-
munity in opposition to the individual.
We assume that the individual has a basic
responsibility; but we also assume that
the community can help provide him op-
portunities to meet his needs.
There is likewise no need to put the
community in opposition to the State,
nor the State to the Federal Government.
We live in a society in which it is not
Federal Government vs. State govern-
ment vs. local government vs. the indi-
vidual, but one where the individual and
his government work together. We live
in a society where Federal and State and
local governments work together.
There are many needs that must be
met, and a variety of ways to describe
them. An elderly woman once phrased
the matter fairly simply and comprehen-
sively for me. She said "I'll tell you
what the needs of older persons are-we
need a place to live, something to do,
something to do with, someone to do for,
and someone to care." This is the kind
of description that covers community
goals for its older citizens-a place to live,
something to do, something to do with,
someone to do for, and someone to care.
Basic to meeting these needs is the de-
velopment of a positive attitude toward
older people. I think one of the signifi-
cant changes that has occurred recently
is a new attitude. No longer is it a case
of "we" and "they," but a recognition

that we are talking about "us." We
should realize that old age is not some-
thing removed from us but rather some-
thing close to us. We should under-
stand that whatever we do for the aged
today we do for ourselves tomorrow, and
for our grandchildren the day after.

Community Programs

I HAVE also been impressed with the
spirit with which these programs are be-
ing developed. It is a spirit which can
be summarized by a quotation from a
British physician, Dr. Thomas Rudd, in
an article describing how programs are
developed. He said: "At once senti-
mentality prompts us to do something
for the 'poor old folks.' Clearly, some-
thing needs to be done, but if we are to
do it well, our thinking and our motives
must be right. Old age must be made
tolerable, not because we are sorry for
the old, but because it is morally right
and necessary that people at all stages of
life have a fair deal." This is the spirit
in which, I think, we are beginning to
develop programs.
The community involvement in pro-
grams is also impressive. We are com-
ing to recognize that this task is far too
big for any one group or any one segment
of society. We must have public groups
and voluntary groups, religious organi-
zations and secular and fraternal orga-
nizations. We must have universities,
and we must have government at all

levels. Increasingly, this kind of coop-
eration is manifested.
And, also increasingly, we are coming
to recognize that the needs of older people
are extremely varied. Older people, as
you well know, are no more alike than
younger ones. The corollary is that
there cannot be just a single program for
older people; there must be many pro-
grams. We do not have one older per-
son duplicated 18 million times in our
society; instead, we have 18 million dis-
tinct individuals. As a consequence we
must develop a multiplicity of programs.
I am also impressed with the intent of
these programs. We are beginning to
recognize that a fundamental objective
is to maintain independence. Those
who have most contact with older people
tell us that what older people fear most
is not death but loss of independence.
All of us recognize that death will come,
but what we fear most is the loss of con-
trol of our lives. Increasingly, we are
designing programs aimed at keeping
people independent as long as possible.
I am favorably impressed with the
sheer variety of programs that have been
developed. I would like to mention
some of these that I have seen in order
to indicate what communities can do.
In Winnetka, Ill., for example, re-
tired persons aid the schools by working
with those students we call "under-
achievers." In every school system there

are such students whom we know should
be doing much better than they are.
The question becomes "How do you
stimulate them?" Usually, the answer
lies in a person-to-person relationship.
So in Winnetka they are using the retired
person to work with these underachievers.
The initial results of this project are very
encouraging. Virtually all of the under-
achievers have shown marked improve-
ment by having an adult work closely
with them. As important as the individ-
ual contact is, I suspect that the qualities
of age-wisdom, patience, tolerance, and
objectivity-help significantly in this
This program with underachievers
has been so successful that it has been
extended to "gifted" and average stu-
dents. Here the emphasis is on enrich-
ment-on stimulating and assisting the
young people to broaden their horizons
by digging deeper into the sciences,
humanities, and other fields.
I recall a city where retired people are
conducting nature walks. They are
giving instruction to children, and adults,
too. In another city one may take a
guided tour of the museum with a retired
art critic.
In New York City older persons are
giving still another educational service.
They come into the classroom in what is
called the "Eye-Witness to History" pro-
gram. In our older people we have an
amazing resource. We have people in

our society who saw the first automobile,
who witnessed the first flight of the air-
plane. They can describe to students
what happened the first day an auto-
mobile was driven down the street. Or
they can describe what happened in
World War I.

Recreational Programs

I THINK, too, of the summer camps
that have been developed. These have
been started in many places. Not long
ago I visited one that was run by the
Salvation Army. They had built cab-
ins, just as at camps for children. They
bring older city people to this summer
camp for 2-week vacations. I remem-
ber talking with one older woman and
asking her, "Why is it that you just
sit by this lake when they have all of
these activities? Why don't you partici-
pate and enjoy yourself?" She replied
politely, but answered in effect, "Go
away! Let me look at the lake!" She
added, though, "Please come and see
me when I return home." And I did.
She lived in a single room, up two
flights of stairs to the third floor. Her
room had only one window and this
looked out on a blank wall and down on
an alley. After seeing her room I could
understand why she was content for 2
weeks just to sit and look out on a beauti-
ful lake scene.
I can mention other vacations for
older people that are now possible. For

example, one of the newspapers in New
York City sponsors a drive each year to
collect money for bus trips and a variety
of other types of vacations.
I think of the senior citizen library that
has been established in Dallas. One of
our serious gaps is our lack of informa-
tion-and there is no single repository of
what we do have. In Dallas, the
community wanted this, and through a
gift the Ferguson Memorial Library was
established. This library now has one
of the largest collections of gerontological
materials in the country.
I remember the State Welfare Direc-
tor who was concerned that so many older
clients-people on old-age assistance-
lived alone. But she was impressed that
many of these older people were quite
able to move about at home and in the
community. So she put two-and-two
together and said, "Why don't we have
those who can get about visit those who
are less mobile?" Before long she had
more than 2,000 older people making
home visits to other older people.
In Boston there is a library that recog-
nized the fact that older people like to
read but frequently cannot because of
the small type. The librarian decided
something should be done about it. So
he began encouraging publishers to print
books in larger type. Now there are
more than 600 different books that are
printed in extra large type. Many New
England libraries, and those in other
parts of the country, have separate sec-

tions-a "corner for tired eyes"-in
which these books for older people are
kept. A list of these books may be ob-
tained from the American Optometric
A similar problem was handled a little
differently in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
There the Lions Club purchased two bed-
side machines that reflect the material
from a book onto the ceiling in big type.
The bedridden person just looks at the
ceiling and reads. And he merely
presses a little gadget to turn the page.
Also important, and different, is the
drivers' school in Denver. It becomes
almost imperative today for an individ-
ual, if he is to be independent, to be able
to move about. And yet, along with
this need for mobility has come a decline
in public transportation. So it becomes
necessary for large numbers of older
people to drive automobiles. But there
is a hazard involved. District Judge
Sherman G. Finesilver of Denver has a
drivers' school in which he teaches older
people how partly to compensate for cer-
tain disabilities and also how to improve
their driving in other ways.
New Jersey is approaching this matter
in a different way-their State Division
on Aging, working with the State High-
way Department, has a broad highway
accident prevention program, aimed par-
ticularly at teaching older people to be
better drivers and pedestrians. Statis-
tics on pedestrian fatalities are startling.
They indicate that in every State, 50 to

60 percent of the pedestrian fatalities
are persons over 65. There is a tremen-
dous need for safety programs that focus
on older pedestrians.

Housing and Home Care

I THINK of housing as another area in
which communities are making progress.
In Cleveland a few weeks ago I saw some
of their fine new apartment buildings.
They have five large projects specifically
designed for older people. In one of
these, Springbrook Estates overlooking a
beautiful park, I was in an apartment
having a living room and balcony, bed-
room, kitchen, and bathroom. The
rent-with all utilities-was $35 a
I think also of Brookline, Needham,
Newton, and Wellesley- -four small
communities in Massachusetts that
wanted to establish a homemaker serv-
ice. A homemaker service, you know,
is a program where trained homemakers
are available to go into the home of an
aged or ill person and assist him. Let
me recount an incident I observed that
points up the value of homemaker service.
I remember being in an information
and referral center-and this is another
service that many communities are estab-
lishing-when an elderly gentleman
came in and said to the counsellor, "I
would like to get a job. Can you help
me?" The counsellor was a good one,
and she said, "Well, Mr. Jones, why do

you want a job? You've been retired
many years and you haven't been seek-
ing employment. What has happened
that makes you want a job now?" The
man said, "I'll tell you. A few weeks
ago Mrs. Jones fell and broke her hip.
She went to the hospital. She's home
now, and is doing nicely but she still has
to lie in bed and can't do the housework.
I try to do it but us old fellers' eyes don't
see very good and I don't notice the dust
under the chair and then she gets all
excited. So I thought I'd go out and
get a job and then I could hire someone
to come in and clean." "Well," the
counsellor said, "what you need is some-
one to help you take care of the house."
A homemaker was sent in until Mrs.
Jones was able to take over again.
In those four communities in Massa-
chusetts, a joint homemaker service has
been established, since the small size of
the individual communities would be a
handicap to underwriting such a pro-
gram. Incidentally, the homemakers
they use are older women. So these
communities are not only providing a
service but also an opportunity-a way
to use older people.

Other Notable Programs

IN RIVERDALE, N.Y., the senior high
school class has "adopted" the Hebrew
Home for the Aged. Students come
there every day to cheer the residents and
be helpful in other ways.

In New Haven, Conn., and Dallas,
Tex., dental programs for homebound
people are operating. Older people
need dental care no less than younger
ones, but there is a problem. Frequently
the older person cannot come to the
dentist's office. Through a demonstra-
tion grant from the U.S. Department of
Health, Education, and Welfare, special
equipment has been developed so that
dentists can go into homes for the aged,
nursing homes, and even private homes
to provide dental care.
In Nassau County, Long Island, N.Y.,
a county home for the aged is reaching
out into the community. It has estab-
lished a Gerontology Center to coordi-
nate and stimulate information and pub-
lic education programs for all the elderly
people in Nassau.
In Providence, R.I., a public housing
project has a professional nurse on duty
24 hours a day. In Ann Arbor, Mich.,
a nearby hospital does the basic screen-
ing of all the project residents, making
early diagnosis and providing referral
and follow-through service. They are
practicing preventive medicine; they are
not waiting until people become ill but
are trying to keep people in good health.
In St. Louis there is a special section of
a park in which shuffleboard courts and
tables and benches have been built and
placed especially for older people.
In Minneapolis representatives of sev-
eral department stores came to the local
council on aging and said, "Could you
recruit us some sales ladies for the holiday

season?" The council said it would do
even better-it would train them. This
project has been so successful that more
than half of these women have been re-
tained after the holiday season.
One last example. I am thinking of
the "party aides" who operate in one
community. This came, as do most
such projects, from the idea of one per-
son. This person reasoned: "All of us
like to give parties, but few have domestic
help. Yet here are retired women who
would make wonderful helpers at parties.
Why not have a system whereby these
older persons could help out as party
A program was soon developed.
Party aides were easily recruited from
senior activity centers. The women took
a 15-hour course of instruction in which
they learned how to make hors d'oeuvres,
mix drinks, serve, and a great many other
things of this nature. An ad was placed
in the newspaper, "Party Aides Avail-
able, $1.25 Per Hour," and a telephone
number listed. The person who handled
the telephone service was a homebound,
bedridden lady with a telephone by her
side. She took the calls and then, going
down her list, called one of the party
These people now are very busy; the
demand for party helpers has far ex-
ceeded the supply. I asked one party
aide: "How do you like it?" She said,
"I love it-I go to a party now every
week!" For her it is a social activity;
and she is making money, too.

Formula for Success

WHAT ARE the ingredients for suc-
cess in community programs for older
people? There are a variety:
First, there must be a community that
cares. It is easy to get individuals to
work for young people in our society; it
is difficult to motivate them to work for
older people. You and I have an obli-
gation to prick the conscience of the
community, to make it aware of the op-
portunities and satisfactions and also the
moral obligation that is involved. There
is a Biblical injunction "Cast me not off
in the time of old age, forsake me not
when my strength faileth." The first
requisite, then, is a community that is,
indeed, taking this to heart.
The second requisite is, there must be
people who will give of themselves.
Money is, of course, important. But
money alone is not enough. There must
be people who are willing to give of
themselves, much as the poet Lowell put
it in the "Vision of Sir Launfal." The
great knight goes out to look for the Holy
Grail and when he finds it, you recall,
the poet notes:
"Not what we give, but what
we share, for the gift
Without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his
alms feeds three-
Himself, his hungering neigh-
bor, and me."
There must be another ingredient-
leadership. Never underestimate the


power of an individual. There must be
some person who is determined he is go-
ing to carry through on an idea. There
is nothing worthwhile that does not owe
its start initially to a single individual
with an idea and a commitment.
Finally, there must be a will to achieve.
The community must want to see the
idea succeed. The community must
recognize that it has an obligation. It
owes this obligation to those who have
gone before. Newton said, "If I can see
farther than those who have gone before
me, it is because I am standing on their
shoulders." In a real sense each gener-
ation stands on the shoulders of those
who have gone before, and it has an
obligation to the generation that goes
before. There is a moral issue here,
which I think was best stated by the late
President Kennedy in a message to the
Congress when he said, "We should
judge ourselves as we will be judged in
the eyes of others, not only by what we
do in outer space but by what we do here
and now for our senior citizens."



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