United Way of Western Connecticut Receives Grants to Assist Older Adults
DANBURY, CT -- A new program to improve food access for Danbury’s older adults will be launched over the coming year, with support from the Peter & Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation and the Tufts Health Plan Foundation.
“We’re so grateful for the support of these two funders,” said Marie Miszewski, co-chair of Danbury’s Age Well Community Council and President/CEO of the Regional YMCA. “This funding will make our vision of better access to healthy food for older adults come closer to reality.”
This innovative program, called Age Well Ambassadors, will train a cohort of older adults on how to access food and other resources, and then arm them with the tools they need to share that information with their peers. By using the power of “word of mouth,” the program aims to inform Danbury’s older adults about community services and supports to put healthy food on their plates.
The Age Well Ambassador program is the culmination of many months of outreach and information gathering by Danbury’s Age Well Community Council and United Way of Western Connecticut. In 2017, United Way conducted a series of Community Conversations and surveys, reaching more than 200 area older adults. One of the takeaways from that work was that people from all walks of life prefer to get information from trusted family, friends, and neighbors. Then, at an Age Well Community Council Summit held in 2018, food security rose to the top as an issue of concern. Danbury Hospital reported at that summit that 45% of the older adults it screened for health-related social needs indicated that they were food insecure.
As a result, the Council held a second summit in June of 2019, called “Come to the Table,” with food security as the focus. Attendees heard compelling personal testimony from older area residents about their own struggles to access food―and the stigma associated with not being able to purchase food.
“The Ambassador Program was selected as a priority action after being inspired by a Danbury veteran who shared his own experience struggling with food insecurity,” said Cara Mitchell. “He described the experience of helping a friend navigate a food pantry for the first time. We thought it would be great to have more people like him in our community.”
Collectively, the group decided to take action to demystify and destigmatize the process of food access for Danbury’s older adults, and the Age Well Ambassadors program began to take shape. The Council summarizes its work in this area moving forward with the tagline “Eat Well, Age Well.”
Initially, the program will recruit 20 Ambassadors, drawing people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and reflecting the multiculturalism of the Danbury area. The work of the Ambassadors will be supplemented by promotional activities, events, videos, and social media. Information will be provided in multiple languages. Ambassadors will share information on how to access available food resources and will also connect them to the Age Well CT website, which is located at www.agewellct.org.
For the City of Danbury, the population age 65 and older is projected to increase 52% by 2025. This program will focus on the low-income residents of Central Danbury. The foreign-born population (33% as of 2017) grew by 169% from 1990 to 2014, concentrated in Danbury’s center. The median income in Central Danbury is $51,400, 36% lower than other neighborhoods. Over 25% of Danbury's current SNAP participants are older adults.
Age Well Ambassadors is one of 40 grantees across New England to receive a Tufts Health Plan Foundation Momentum mini-grant and one of only 10 projects in Connecticut to be funded.
“These mini-grants make it possible for organizations to build on community insights,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president of corporate citizenship at Tufts Health Plan. “We know the best ideas come from cities and towns as they reimagine aging.”
Tufts Health Plan Foundation began funding in Connecticut this year. In 2018, Tufts Health Plan, in partnership with Hartford Healthcare, launched CarePartners of Connecticut, which offers Medicare Advantage plans to Connecticut seniors. CarePartners leverages the decades of experience of both organizations in providing high quality care and award-winning health care coverage.
For more information about the Age Well Ambassadors program, contact Cara Mitchell at United Way of Western Connecticut at 203-883-0879 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo 1: At the June 2019 Age Well Summit, held at the Ethan Allen, attendees learned of the challenges of obtaining healthy food faced by many older adults in Danbury.
Photo 2: Paul Trudel has been recruited for the new Age Well Ambassadors program. He shared his story about helping other older adults access food pantries at the 2019 Age Well Community Council Summit in June.
About United Way of Western Connecticut
United Way of Western Connecticut improves the lives of hard-working, struggling households by mobilizing the resources of local communities to create lasting change. We help residents across Northern Fairfield County, Southern Litchfield County, and the City of Stamford by focusing on the vital building blocks for a good life: Education, Financial Stability and Health. We are committed to ensuring that every child enters school ready to learn, every family is financially stable, and every community we serve is healthy and strong. We are particularly focused on a population that United Way identifies as ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) in our communities. A United Way report published in September 2018 revealed that in Connecticut, more than 1 in 3 households has earnings above the Federal Poverty Level, but below a basic cost-of-living threshold. Combined with those who are struggling below poverty level, 40% of all households in the state are experiencing ﬁnancial hardship. By leveraging the collective power of the community, we are focused on creating an environment where individuals and families are self-sufficient and can achieve financial independence. For more information about United Way of Western Connecticut, please visit: www.uwwesternct.org. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Follow us on Instagram. Watch us on YouTube.
United Way of Western Connecticut