The South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition: Aging in Place Connections
Guest: Paul Franklin – Chairman, South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition
Host: Sally Smith – Author/Resource literature on age-related disease and healthy aging
Sally Smith: Welcome to Age to Age. I’m Sally Smith. Let’s talk. Today, we have with us Paul Franklin, chairman of the board of the South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition, a fascinating umbrella organization that locates resources pertinent to the issues of aging in place, if that is what you choose to do. I read, in your literature, that you have an arm of your group called Aging in Place Connections, and it has to do with taking your goals and missions and turning them into facts and programs for the community. I’d love to know more about that.
Paul Franklin: Right. It really comes from the concept that sometimes all you really need are the right connections. So, what we try to do is put people with the resources they need at the moment. We have organizations that contact us that have a group that may be interested in a particular topic. Maybe they want to hear about living wills, or medical directives, or estate planning. They may want to hear about transportation options. It goes on and on. So, we try to tailor our presentation around what the audience wants to hear. And we bring resources, it’s usually a panel of people that represent different segments of that resource so people can understand, a little better, what that resource delivers, and ask questions that are pertinent for their situation.
Sally Smith: And what their choices are, the options.
Paul Franklin: Absolutely,
Sally Smith: Even the different ways of looking at a certain issue. That’s a great vehicle.
Paul Franklin: So, we tailor it, then, around their needs. And, of course, every group usually tells us how long we have to speak, so we try to accomplish that so each person has an opportunity to talk about their resource area. These are just generic discussions about that resource area. Then we just open it up for questions. It’s, I think, a very good learning tool. We actually do something that we kind of stole from the concept of speed dating. We actually have a situation where, when we have enough time, we have one resource person at each table. So, when we have large groups, people circulate around that resource representative, giving them five or six minutes at each table, and they have to speed date to the next one.
Sally Smith: I love that.
Paul Franklin: It gives people the option to go to the resource area that they’re most interested in and hear someone speak about it in depth, and have the closeness where you can ask questions about it in a safe environment.
Sally Smith: That is just fantastic. You know, you can read ‘til the cows come home. I’m reading all the time about all these things. It’s just completely different to hear somebody’s voice. It’s like getting an email as opposed to speaking on the telephone, where there’s voice intonation, where you can emote. And sometimes, especially on a subject like this, which can be somewhat scary, off putting, new terrain, it’s very nice to have eye-to-eye contact with somebody who has already established himself, or herself, to be willing to help you, has come to be speaker there and wants to help you in that way. That’s sounds like a powerful thing. Now, what sort of groups, even church groups?
Paul Franklin: We have gone to every kind of group you can imagine. Church is very popular. We had about 50 presentations last year. Many of those were churches. There were also senior centers, neighborhood associations, civic service clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions. All of those service organizations have asked us to speak, so it’s a variety of places. We’ve spoken to the MUSC PA class, for the new physician assistants to understand what the resources are in a community and what they need to learn in their geriatric classes. So, we try to speak to and educate the professionals. It’s so important. We spoke to Nursing here, at MUSC. It’s important that they know what the resources are and people they can call on for help and assistance.
Sally Smith: That is so huge. I think every institution has, sort of, a natural inclination to be an island, to try to take care of their own; they do what they do, but they’re not really sure what the other fella does. What I love, I’ve heard you say, you are establishing your resources through some sort of a validation of their criteria, so there’s a safety issue there. It gives them an idea of I can’t do it, but I can tell you where to go, which is a real service to their client, their patient, their whatever.
One question I have: as you do this, do you notice whole vacuums, or holes, in the system? You’re talking to so many different people, do they ever come to you and say, hey, we really need x, y, z to happen, or they have a service that isn’t listed in your resources? Do you get a lot of that, identification of need, identification of a unique resource for these presentations?
Paul Franklin: Yes. There’s a wide gap of resources that are available, especially in rural South Carolina. It causes me great pain sometimes to even think about the lack of resources that a lot of these folks have. They’re out there, you know, living in rural areas, and they have very little contact with organizations that can help. It’s just a matter of distances sometimes. When you think of the Tri-County area, you know, from the upper end of Berkley County, down to the tip of Charleston County, and then Dorchester County, it’s a huge area. And that’s, basically, sort of, our service area. That’s the area that we stamped and said that we want to try to help.
There are big differences in the resources that we have here in Charleston, and you see that even with the PA students coming in from rural South Carolina. They’ve never experienced such things as, for example, an active Alzheimer’s unit, Alzheimer’s Association, or an association for the blind. They just weren’t available out there, so it exposes them to some resources that they didn’t know existed. And seeing how they can all work together is really unique as well.
Sally Smith: Well, in your position of having begun this and, now, watching it grow to the point where you’re giving 50 presentations and have a much more national presence, and now 60 cities have these sorts of things, where do you see this heading? Where would you like to see Aging in Place go? And, I’d love to know, would that be filling in all the gaps, for everyone, universally? What is your goal there?
Paul Franklin: Well, I would love to see every community in South Carolina have an Aging in Place Coalition where people, families, can go and find out what resources are available in their own neighborhood. That’s tough to do. It takes volunteers. It takes a real dedication. We’re very fortunate to have such a wonderful group of volunteers in our Aging in Place Coalition. These are very dedicated people. They donate lots of hours to providing information to the public, and we’re just very fortunate. It does take a certain volume. Certainly, in the smallest communities, you couldn’t do it. There just aren’t that many resources available.
Sally Smith: One question: you spoke earlier about Americans, you always hear about how the Chinese honor the old. They have this great sense of history and celebration, and taking care of the old is a sacred moment in life. Are we heading that way? Do you think we’ll ever get there, or do we even want to get there? I mean, obviously, they don’t have the financial resources to be having all these little backup systems in a city, but you always hear that they take care of their own. Is that just a cultural difference?
Paul Franklin: Yes. I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of Oriental families, and it’s so impressive how they follow and take care of elders in their community. There’s a closeness there that we don’t really have in America because our culture is more about independence.
Sally Smith: That’s what brought us here.
Paul Franklin: Yeah, that’s right. That’s what brought us here. So, we have a much more independent streak, I think, and we have a tendency to not burden our family members.
Sally Smith: Exactly. That’s the big word.
Paul Franklin: Yes. So, as result, there are many times when, quite frankly, the parents aren’t honest with their adult children about what’s going on. They hide things because they don’t want to be a burden. And then there’s the whole thing with distance today, with families being scattered all across the country because of jobs and economic demands, and you don’t have that closeness. And, maybe, China is losing that as well. As more and more people are moving from the rural areas of China into the major cities, they’re losing some of that family connectedness as well.
Sally Smith: Well, there’s a double-edged sword in so many things like that. You look at America before there were planes, and the internet, and all of that, people stayed at home, and on the farm. We’ve talked about that in these podcasts. People stayed together, and you didn’t have nursing homes. You just kept everybody right there, whatever their status was. So, that is one of the holes that’s left by what some people call progress. You could get into a very interesting discussion about what kind of progress, and for whom, and at what cost, and that sort of thing. But, in our society, we need the South Carolina Aging in Place. If we’re going to live they way we’re living right now, let’s, at least, do the best we can with it. Right, Paul?
Paul Franklin: Absolutely.
Sally Smith: Thank you so much for joining us today. It was very informative. Thanks to all our listeners, too, for joining us, and we welcome your suggestions. This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying goodbye and wishing you courage and joy on your own journey. We are all connected.
If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book, The Circle. It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent with dementia. Just click on Sally Smith’s name under the Health Professionals tab on the Podcast home page. All profits support research at the Center on Aging. Thanks.