February 17, 2016
By James Macgill, ABAG Consultant, Affinity Group on Aging
In 2016 the Affinity Group on Aging will focus on three important areas:
· Addressing the housing needs of Baltimore’s low-income seniors.
· Developing new service models that combine health and community services for older adults.
· Creating an advocacy platform for Baltimore City’s senior population.
Seniors and Housing
In 2014, the Affinity Group, in cooperation with the Homeowners’ Preservation Coalition convened the Baltimore Seniors and Housing Collaborative. The Collaborative, composed of more than 90 funders, nonprofits, public agencies and advocates focuses on the housing needs of Baltimore’s elderly. The Collaborative recognizes that many Baltimore low income seniors lack stable, affordable and healthy housing, undermining their ability to age in place. Working together, the members of the Collaborative has generated new service strategies, and funding initiatives including:
· An educational and outreach program for seniors at risk of losing their homes due to the City’s Tax Sale process.
· Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS): a collaboration of service providers, funded by the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Charitable Foundation and Hoffberger Foundation, and administered by Civic Works. HUBS coordinates housing and related services for Baltimore City older adults to improve their health and safety, preserve the integrity of their properties, and extend the time that they can remain in their homes.
· Project Household: a coordinated legal services program funded by the Stulman Foundation, which provides legal advocacy for seniors on housing problems, including consumer issues, family problems and estate questions.
In 2016, the Affinity Group will build upon and expand its work on senior housing issues.
Health System and Community Services
As Maryland and Baltimore City move closer to a population based approach to health care, the Affinity Group wants to assure that older adults are not left behind. Specifically the Affinity Group
· Is working with the City Health Department to including an aging focus in the City’s Strategic Health Plan.
· Brings together area hospitals and community-based aging service organizations to build partnerships to serve seniors in their communities, thus reducing hospital admissions and unnecessary costs.
In recent years, Baltimore City seniors have lacked strong advocates who can take action on their behalf in the arena of public policy. Some issues that advocates could address include:
· State funding formulas that give insufficient weight to low income and vulnerable elderly, resulting in fewer senior services in the City.
· Exploitation and abuse of vulnerable seniors, both in community settings and in institutions, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
· The need to upgrade and modernize Baltimore City’s senior centers.
· Inadequate transportation services, for seniors and persons with disabilities in Baltimore particularly for those who need specialized door-to-door service.
In 2016, the Affinity Group will explore the potential for creating an advocacy network that will address these and other senior issues.
The Affinity Group on Aging is excited about its progress to date, and looks forward to a productive 2016.