People need services to thrive as they age, but what if there’s a shortage of those services in the community?
Furman University is bringing together leaders in aging and healthcare policy at its 2022 Community Health Forum in the hopes of finding some solutions.
“We are coming to terms with the fact that over the next 10 years, the population will not only become more racially diverse, but much older, and most communities lack the resources to meet their needs,” said Susan Ybarra, executive director of Furman’s Institute for the Advancement of Community Health, which is hosting the event.
The forum will feature national health care and aging policy expert Anne Tumlinson ’89 as keynote speaker.
Tumlinson, who has testified before Congress on multiple occasions, is the founder of ATI Advisory, which works to reform care delivery and financing for frail and vulnerable older adults. She also founded Daughterhood, a support community for family caregivers.
“What we hope to do with this event is to have a conversation about what are the challenges and opportunities in creating healthy communities,” said Ybarra, “and have Anne work with us on sharing some key principals for successfully tackling these issues.”
In addition, the panel will include Jack Hansen, a part-time consultant for NASA and the author of two books on retirement; Muriel Taylor, director of Volunteers and Community Engagements at Meals on Wheels of Greenville; Dr. Katharine Few, a geriatric nurse practitioner who works at The Center for Success in Aging caring for dementia patients; South Carolina Rep. Chandra Dillard, who advocates for human and community development as well as affordable housing and family success; and T. David Smith ’89, a sales, marketing and corporate strategy executive who works with health systems, commercial insurers and government health plans.
Many of the problems associated with aging and health care have been highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis, she said, such as the shortage of home health workers. And racial inequities compound the problems, she said.
“There are individuals in hospitals or rehab centers who would normally be able to go home … but there are massive shortages of home health workers,” Ybarra shared from an article titled ‘Pandemic-Fueled Shortages of Home Health Workers Strand Patients Without Necessary Care’ by Judith Graham. “Older, frailer adults are finding it harder than ever to get help.”
Possible solutions might be enhanced telehealth and other technology that allows people to stay at home, Ybarra said.
“When people age in place,” she said, “they live longer, do better, and they’re happier.”
IACH works to connect Furman and the greater community to advance education, programs and research to improve the quality of life and health in the community, said Ybarra. Its work incorporates the core values of health equity, justice and diversity, she said.
This is the fifth year of the forum, which serves as a spring board for action, she said.
“Typically with our events, there is a networking session at the end and out of that comes some actionable items, for example … a relationship we can build on, an intervention that we can collaborate on or reinforce,” she said.
“What does a successful community for an aging population look like?” she added. “Now is the perfect time for us to sit down as a community and learn what we need to do.”
The forum, which will be held on March 18 from 1-5 p.m. at Furman’s Younts Conference Center, is open to the general community, IACH partners, including hospitals and nonprofits, and Furman staff and students.
Registration is required.