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Virtual Age-Friendly Fair Highlights Path to Better NJ

More than 260 people – including key government, business, non-profit and academic leaders -participated in New Jersey’s Age-Friendly Virtual Fair, a first-of-its-kind showcase of the diverse work underway to make the Garden State a better place to grow old.

The Sept. 15 virtual conference featured 34 virtual “table” presentations on myriad subjects that encompass or align with age-friendly efforts – from snapshot looks at strategies to improve transportation, housing, social inclusion, communication and collaboration within a community to detailed examinations of how New Jersey’s physical infrastructure, social support services and elder-care systems can be redesigned to better support aging in place.

Among the dignitaries who offered remarks as part of the event was Kaylee McGuire, New Jersey’s Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Human Services who spoke of her agency’s ongoing work to develop and launch a blueprint for age-friendly communities across the state.

“Together, through age-friendly work, we can develop and enhance outdoor spaces, transportation, affordable housing, social networks, employment opportunities, communication, and community health services,” McGuire said. “The Department envisions a New Jersey where all generations can thrive together.”

The virtual fair was planned by a multi-organizational team, including the Rutgers School of Social Work in partnership with New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well, a non-profit advocacy group whose executive director Cathy Rowe was among the early age-friendly community leaders in the state. Grotta Fund for Senior Care and The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation – two foundations that helped fund and form the Age-Friendly North Jersey alliance.

“NJAAW has been a strong supporter of age friendly communities for over a decade now, and we are thrilled to see not only the progress but the momentum that is building in this area. Having worked for 4 years building age-friendly efforts in South Orange and Maplewood, I understand both the excitement and challenges communities face. This virtual fair really opened up opportunities for people to connect, learn and see the possibilities they can bring to their communities”  Cathy Rowe

The goal of the event was to encourage collaboration and idea-sharing among the myriad players involved in age-friendly work, a list that includes community leaders, service providers, older residents, government officials, planners, developers, students, educators, community groups, funders, and more.

“Based on years of research, practice, and advocacy, we know that singular age-friendly programs, projects, groups, and community initiatives can be incredibly powerful on their own,” said Dr. Emily Greenfield, professor of social work at Rutgers. “But they have even greater chance for long-term and equitable impact when done in harmony with those of others.’

 Participation by a number of state lawmakers, Murphy Administration officials, county government and municipal leaders is encouraging because age-friendly strategies must be adopted at all levels of government – and across all government divisions – in partnership with the private sector.

“Environmental and climate changes, transportation infrastructure, affordable housing development, property tax policies, design of parks and other public spaces, election outcomes, public health safety, Medicaid spending – decisions made across all of these sectors can make or break our ability to age with health and dignity in the communities of our choice – for the current generation of older adults and the multitudes to follow, “ said Julia Stoumbos, director of aging in place programs for the Taub Foundation. “More and more people in younger generations will be living to ages 100 and beyond and our community infrastructure must be designed with this in mind.

Leaders of the Age-Friendly North Jersey alliance work in regular partnership with a number of organizations in the state that play a lead role in aging issues. Representatives of many of those organizations – such as AARP New Jersey, New Jersey Future, Justice in Aging, and Corporation for Supportive Housing -, led presentations at the virtual fair.

“It was gratifying to partner with the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, NJAAW, and Rutgers University and to showcase the local, county, state and national leaders and supportive dignitaries who are enthusiastically and collaboratively encouraging ways of better aging in New Jersey,” said Renie Carniol, director of The Grotta Fund. “As a funder in Northern New Jersey, we are pleased to foster so many positive outcomes from our Age-Friendly community grantees and others. We are eager to hear about how this information spurs new leaders, networks, initiatives, and policies in our state that will optimize and enhance quality of life as people age.”

Click here to view the program and other supporting materials for the virtual fair.


End of Life Doulas – Compassionate Support and Expert Guidance for Your Family Through the Sacred Journey of Aging and End of Life

By Adrian Allotey
Eldercare Specialist/Aging Companion/End of Life Doula
You Are Not Alone Elder Care LLC

Clinically managed end of life care is increasingly becoming a hot topic for discussion. Providing care for fragile elderly patients nearing their transition from this world goes beyond learned skills. Medical personnel responsible for providing this specialized care must have an innate sense of attention and dedication to the entire process, the humanistic part in particular. Despite the countless legal and ethical concerns associated with end of life advocacy, the family, patient, and in my case, end of life doula’s role as advocates all come to play here. With ten percent of all US healthcare spending going into the end of life care, it proves why many Americans are increasingly becoming interested in experiencing a period of care before death.

How End of Life Advocacy Has Been Transformed

Since the 20th century, and with advancements in science, medicine, and medical engineering, health professionals have occupied a lot of space where the family and community formerly filled. Care for a dying patient can be managed and made less painful with innovative medical technology. An end of life doula can also have prominence in cases such as these by advocating through the entire transition process.  

For years, end of life doulas have researched ways to enhance the quality of life for all parties involved in the various stages leading to the death of the patient. For this reason, advocacy is a fundamental feature of end of life care. The assistance and sensitive care provided in this period can assist in determining the quality of end of life. More importantly, this relationship is dependent on support and information from the person who is passing and their medical team. 

What Happens to The Patient During End of Life Care?

Patients can exhibit total dependency traits, powerlessness, and helplessness in their final moments. Some may lose continence, the ability to speak, or exercise self-control. This is where advocacy begins. The  end of life doula can represent them and communicate their wishes. It becomes even more crucial when the patient’s initial diagnosis rapidly declines.  

Hopefully by this time, patients have taken steps to create advanced directives for their end of life decisions; giving explicit consent for medical choices if and when the time comes.  The patient may authorize a surviving spouse, child, or family member to make these final decisions on their behalf. Admittedly, these are tough decisions to make and may require end of life doula intervention and support.

Ethical Dilemmas

Although the reasons for end of life care are justifiable, they still have ethical dilemmas. There are problems with compromised patient self-sufficiency and communication failures. Meanwhile, of great concern is the issue of symptoms management. It usually brings up the inquiry of whether symptom reliefs prevail over likely risks and side effects.

Shared decision making can also be of great concern. It happens when more than one person is involved in the final choices. Indeed, it has been noted that significant others may fight against the patient’s wishes. However, the crucial choice should be a sign of respect to the dying individual.

Advanced Directives such as the medical power of attorney, “Do Not Resuscitate”  and POST form are vital elements to discuss before the patient gets worse and cannot make decisions. Advocacy at the end of life has come to stay, and more Americans are beginning to see it as a means to a decent and comfortable death.