In early July, I had the exciting opportunity to join nearly 1,000 participants in the annual USAging conference in Austin, Texas. The heat was intense, especially for a New Englander, topping out at 109 degrees (which felt like 117).
On Saturday, I took a cooling swim at Barton Springs, a natural pool owned by the city which holds a temperature of 68 degrees throughout the entire year and found some welcome relief. The conference started on Sunday and for the next three days I was grateful that the air conditioning inside the hotel was able to beat out the scorching Texas sun.
For readers unfamiliar with USAging, it is the national organization focused on advocating and securing funding for older adults, caregivers, and individuals with disabilities. USAging meets with members of Congress to convey the needs of older Americans in every state and explain how agencies like Coastline use federal funding to meet those needs. Their annual conference is an exciting arena of leading-edge topics where agencies share their innovations in supporting older adults, securing new funding, and cultivating a professional workforce.
One hot topic this year was “Addressing Social Isolation through Engagement.” I am proud to say this is an area where Coastline has shined. During the pandemic, we identified the greatest need in our area as technology access and training. Using an innovative approach to our federally-funded programs, Coastline rolled out a Technology Training course offered at our new Belleville Avenue headquarters in New Bedford that has been such a success that, as of this writing, 90 local adults, age 60 or older, have signed up for the six-week class and 60 of them have completed it successfully.
One individual who took the course told us, “The class was wonderful. It stimulated me to get out of the house and to use the computer with confidence. I would like to sign on for more, especially about the cell phone. Thank you.”
Others also told us they are eager for more and Coastline is now developing a class on smartphone use that is expected to launch this fall.
We are excited to share the success of this program with USAging who will then go to Congress and show that investment in agencies like Coastline is an effective use of funding and that additional investments are needed to continue to support older Americans.
Our Technology Training program is even more valuable because it provides help to younger Americans as well. After our training, grandparents can connect to their grandchildren more easily, and caregiving children of older adults don’t need to provide repeated trainings on Zoom or computer programs; so it is a win for the entire family.
I share this information about USAging so you are aware of how their advocacy and support at the national level has an impact in our community. Coastline relies on federal funding for many of our programs, specifically funding from the Older Americans Act (OAA). If you or someone you know receive any services from Coastline, you too can be an advocate for more funding from the OAA.
Visit usaging.org/advocacyalerts to know when USAging is making a push with senators and representatives regarding this vital funding source, so you can contact your representatives to let them know they should support USAging’s requests.
Justin Lees is CEO of Coastline Elderly Services, a federally-supported Area Agency on Aging based in New Bedford. To learn how Coastline can help older and disabled adults live independently or for more information on upcoming technology classes, call Coastline at 508-999-6400.