Navigating Aging with Choice and Dignity: A Q&A with Minuteman Senior Services

During the month of May and Older American’s Month, the Foundation joined the White House to “celebrate older adults for their contributions, support their independence, and recognize their unparalleled value to our Nation,” as well as our region by highlighting one of our local nonprofit partners supporting older adults, Minuteman Senior Services.  

Through offerings including home care, nutrition, health and wellness, and many other services, Minuteman is helping seniors and people of all abilities maintain their independence. 

In our latest Q&A, Melissa Cull, Development Manager at Minuteman Senior Services shared how they are “helping people of all abilities and backgrounds navigate aging with choice and dignity.” 

Can you tell us briefly what Minuteman Senior Services does?  

Minuteman Senior Services is the trusted hub for supportive services, information, and advocacy to help people of all abilities and backgrounds navigate aging with choice and dignity. Minuteman’s knowledgeable and compassionate staff provides older adults, people with disabilities, and family caregivers with care options to meet their needs. Minuteman empowers people to determine how they wish to live their best lives—and supports them on that journey. 

Minuteman provides 20+ community-based programs that address social care needs including: 

  • Meals on Wheels and congregate dining; 
  • SHINE health benefits counseling for Medicare recipients; 
  • Care Management and in-home supports such as personal care assistance and grocery shopping; 
  • Elder Protective Services; 
  • Bill paying and money management assistance; 
  • A no-cost Information & Referral helpline; and  
  • Education, counseling, and respite services for family caregivers. 

What was the need your organization saw in MetroWest, and how are you working to fill it?   

According to Impact MetroWest, the number of older adults in our region is increasing rapidly: “The number of people between the ages of 60 and 84 increased 31% between 2008-12 and 2018-22. The population 85 and older grew 10% during the same period.”  Aging can place a tremendous strain upon the finances, health, and networks of community members:  

  • 80% of households with older adults are financially struggling or are at risk of falling into economic insecurity as they age 
  • One in 14 older adults is food insecure; and 
  • 38% of older adults in our region live alone, and social isolation among this population is linked to higher risk for depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

To meet this need, Minuteman enhances the health, well-being, and independence of people of diverse backgrounds as they navigate aging and disability, providing supports that empower them to live with meaning, choice, and dignity. 

How has Minuteman grown since your founding?   

Since 1975, Minuteman has served thousands of older adults, people with disabilities, and family caregivers.  We have expanded our services in response to the aging demographic by innovating our core services to reach more individuals.  This includes expanding partnerships with health care entities to address social care needs – such as housing, food and economic insecurity – for vulnerable older adults, as well as expanded culturally-tailored programs to address inequities in service delivery to historically underserved populations.  

What are the greatest needs you see MetroWest seeking from Minuteman Senior Services? What are the resources you wish more individuals/families/caretakers would utilize?  

The greatest growing need among the older adults we serve is the increasing complexity of their clinical care needs, with our new consumers presenting with far more complicated and time-intensive needs. 

Our wish is that community members fully understand the breadth of support services that we offer, and that they reach out to us earlier in their aging journey.  None of us want to think of ourselves as “old”, and a resistance to accessing services for older adults can lead to a delay in receiving much needed intervention and assistance.  This puts people at risk of their needs becoming so complex they can no longer be managed in community.  Our tagline is “Know Us Before You Need Us” because our goal is to support community members every step of the way as the navigate aging and disability. 

The older adult population is very diverse and growing. How do you ensure everyone has access to your services?   

Minuteman meets people of diverse backgrounds, languages, and communities—including the LGBTQIA+ community—where they are.  We continually strive to increase language access and adapt services to provide person-centered care. 

We have adopted the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services Standards from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to guide our equity efforts, and taken the following steps to date: 

  • Incorporating cultural competency into staff trainings and agency updates
  • Created our employee “Do Better to Be Better” workgroup to increase awareness of unconscious bias, increase knowledge of racial ethnic disparities, and improve skillsets to counter unconscious bias
  • Implemented a bias incident tracking tool and response protocol
  • Retraining staff to consistently enter consumer data on race/ethnicity and primary language so that we can more accurately compare the demographics of our consumers to the general population and develop new programming to meet the needs of our consumers
  • Enhancing programming tailored to the specific needs of diverse communities (e.g., delivering India meals to homebound older adults, hosting community events for LGBTQIA+ older adults and allies)
  • Increasing the number of languages into which we translate our materials, increasing awareness of the availability of the free interpreter service we offer, and evaluating ways to improve the experience of non- and limited English speakers when accessing services

Why is supporting caretakers just as important as supporting individuals?    

Family caregivers are at an increased risk for many health problems and are 2.5 times more likely than non-caregivers to live in poverty.  They can become “burned out,” taking a toll on their own health and well-being, and impacting their ability to be an effective caregiver.  At Minuteman, we provide family caregivers with the resources, education, guidance, training, and empowerment to better care for themselves and their loved ones. 

How does enhancing the health, well-being, and independence of people navigating aging not only help older adults and the people you serve, but their communities as well?   

Our community is rapidly aging: Over the next 25 years, the number of older Americans will increase by nearly 50%. 

Nearly 80% of older adults express a desire remain in their communities and homes as they age.  On top of the fact that our communities do not have the nursing facilities required to support our rapidly growing older population, evidence suggests that aging in community results in improved mental and physical health outcomes, stronger social connections, and cost savings for families, government, and health systems.  The health of our older adults is entwined with the health of our community. 

At Minuteman, we empower people who are navigating aging and disability to make decisions on how they wish to live their best lives. 

Do you have any testimonials/case studies you could share?   

When Minuteman was first introduced to them, brother and sister James and May were in their early 70s and living in James’s car. 

May had recently moved to the area to live with her brother, as a medical condition had made it impossible for her to continue living independently. James is now her primary caregiver, and they were both left homeless when James was forced to leave the furnished apartment he was renting. 

Our first priority was to secure reliable housing for James and May, and our team helped them to pursue every available resource and opportunity. Once they found an apartment, we worked with our community partners to help May and James secure funds for their security deposit and first and last months’ rent, find furniture, connect to a food pantry for weekly groceries and holiday meals, and get warm coats and boots for winter. 

With their living situation secured, Minuteman staff worked together to provide James and May with the full range of supports they will need to thrive in their new home. We are delivering lunches to May every weekday while James is at work, enrolled May in a new insurance plan so that she can visit local doctors, and lined up in-home care to assist her with daily activities. We were also able to secure a caregiver stiped for James, which was used to rent the truck that delivered their furniture. 

As James said, before he and May were connected with Minuteman, they were discouraged and losing hope. Now they feel their futures are bright. 

How can people get involved in your organization?  

Minuteman has hundreds of volunteers who develop connections with their older neighbors while contributing to a wide range of our programming.  We invite community members to join us in:  

  • Delivering meals to homebound older adults 
  • Visiting with older adults in their homes or helping them with grocery shopping 
  • Advocating for nursing home residents 
  • Serving congregate lunches at community-based locations 
  • Helping with bill paying or explaining medical insurance/benefits 
  • Leading health and wellness workshops 
  • Joining our Board of Directors or Advisory Council 

Learn more about Minuteman Senior Services at minutemansenior.org

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