The event began with informal networking and a light dinner which was generously provided by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). The evening’s activities took place at the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania building. United Way staff provided the space at no cost to GenPhilly and set up the room for the event. Attendees received a resource flier with links to the GenPhilly jobs page, contact information for the evening’s speakers, GenPhilly mission and future event information, and a survey link so attendees can provide feedback about this event.
Kate Clark kicked off the event with information about GenPhilly, the organization that organized this event. GenPhilly’s focus is to support emerging leaders in the aging field, and to serve as an information hub for those who work or are interested in a career in aging. Essentially, GenPhilly aims to develop a community for all ages, one in which we would all enjoy growing older. Regardless of whether you work in the aging field, aging is relevant to every profession. Kate also talked about her own path to a career in aging, and her early focus on community and economic development. She also polled the audience to determine how many attendees were currently working in the aging field, and how many had plans to in the future. The crowd was a mix of aging professionals, college students, and those who were looking to integrate aging in their work.
The keynote speaker was Holly Lange, MURP, Senior Vice-President of PCA, a private non-profit provider of aging services in Philadelphia County. PCA is one of 52 Area Agencies on Aging across the state. Holly functions as the COO, and she oversees all of PCA’s operations, including long-term care, information and referral services, housing and home accessibility, food services, and other programming. Holly had an early interest in aging, following her grandmother’s stroke. Holly spent a lot of time enjoying her grandmother’s company, and she developed an appreciation for older adults at a young age. She also discussed her educational development, which was not aging-specific (undergraduate work in American Studies and graduate work in Urban & Regional Planning). In her current role, she continually assesses the needs of Philadelphia’s aging community in an effort to provide comprehensive assistance that will enable older adults to remain in the community as they age. Holly underscored the wide range of jobs in aging that positively impact the quality of life of older adults. Essentially, there are some jobs that are considered aging-specific (geriatrics, etc.) and others that will touch the lives of older adults in a non-traditional way (medical services, pharmacy, allied health, physical/occupational/speech therapy, architecture & design, public health, law, and research.
In her conclusion, Holly discussed aging trends and took questions from the audience. The aging trends of note include population growth of people aged 85+, increased cultural diversity, and limited funding growth in the public sector (PCA, for example, has received flat funding for the third straight year). Holly was asked about her vision for the future of Philadelphia. Holly foresees an increase in walking trails and safe neighborhoods. She also discussed PCA’s role in aging advocacy on a city, state, and federal level, along with her involvement in the Senior Supports Coalition.
Jeni Wright, Esq., a staff attorney at the Senior Law Center, presented the first “lightning talk.” Senior Law Center provides free legal assistance to people aged 60+, and also operates a state helpline and legal offices in Philadelphia. SLC has provided assistance to over 40,000 older adults since its inception in 1978. Jeni studied political science as an undergrad and then obtained her law degree (specializing in public interest law) from Community Law School. Some of the issues she addresses in her role at SLC include personal planning, grandparent custody, foreclosure issues, consumer concerns, and landlord-tenant issues. Essentially, there is work in the legal system that will impact older adults in traditional and non-traditional ways.
Catherine Khayati, MSW, Program Manager for PCA’s Nursing Home Transition Program, was the next presenter. She shared her early experience as a caregiver for an older adult when she was in college. Catherine has worked in many positions in the PCA system. In her current role, she manages a program that helps elders transition from nursing homes back into the community (which is beneficial to the older adult, and it is also less expensive to maintain someone at home as an alternative to nursing home care).
Matt Bryan, Project Manager for ArtReach, shared information about his program, which connects underserved people with cultural events. This program provides approximately 15,000 deeply discounted tickets. This work is done in conjunction with local nonprofit agencies that identify people with disabilities or financial challenges who may benefit. ArtReach currently has a network of 180 member agencies and over 200 venues. ArtReach has also partnered with Philly Fun Guide to ensure accessible performances for all.
Raechel Hammer, MSW, COO of Strategic Development and Compliance at Raymond and Miriam Klein and Stiffel Jewish Community Centers, was the next presenter. The JCCs provide comprehensive social services, and often work as transformative change agents—prolonging and enhancing the lives of older adults. Raechel’s primary role is to supervise staff, identify new partnering organizations, and to search out new funding streams. The JCCs provide a continuum of services to meet the needs of both active and frail older adults, and a thriving older adult volunteer program (RSVP). The older adult population is increasing exponentially, and Pennsylvania has higher numbers of older adults than in many other states.
David Lee, DPM, from Temple University’s Podiatry Program, shared information about how podiatry touches the lives of older adults by easing their foot pain and by reducing their mortality rates (particularly resulting from untreated Diabetic foot ulcers). David also appreciates the reasonable work/life balance that podiatry provides, along with the opportunity to work with other disciplines. He discussed his ability to provide holistic care to the patients he serves, and how he is able to make a difference in a tangible way. He also emphasized that it is never too late to shift careers to follow your passion.
Imanni Wilkes, MPH, Managing Director of Enterprise Community Development Corporation, was the evening’s final speaker. She discussed her organization’s work in the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Walnut Hill. Her organization works with people of all ages in that community to assist them in remaining independent and having their needs met. ECDC does door-to-door outreach in an effort to connect with more people. Older adults comprise 12% of the Walnut Hill neighborhood, and they tend to take an active role in local programs and activities. Enterprise CDC has recently partnered with Coming of Age to create a timebank, which is essentially a barter system of skills and services among neighborhood residents of all ages. There are currently 330 timebanks across the country. Information on how to create a community timebank can be found at www.timebanks.org. Imanni also encouraged attendees to explore www.pacdc.org to learn more about community development activities and to search job postings.
The evening’s event concluded after a question and answer session with the featured presenters. A question was asked about the possibility of internships with these nonprofit agencies. The JCC, Enterprise CDC, and PCA indicated their interest in exploring internship possibilities with attendees. The presenters were also asked whether they incorporate intergenerational activities in their work. Enterprise CDC, the JCC (particularly through its “Reading Buddies” program), and ArtReach discussed their efforts to span generations.
The event concluded with some informal brainstorming by the attendees, and seemed to inspire audience members to connect in some capacity to the aging field.
Written by Sara Popkin