When I was a graduate student at Columbia School of Social Work, one of my favorite classes was Advanced Program Planning. While I enjoyed both the professor and the course content, the most fascinating aspect of the class was the rich conversation and dialogue that emerged from students, all of whom had varied passions within the realm of social work. We were a social work variety pack, working doggedly in field placements across every imaginable setting — schools, clinics, hospitals, prisons, law firms — united in common purpose to improve the quality of life for the people we helped.
I often sat next to another student named Melissa. Melissa’s chosen scope of practice was aging (a frequently overlooked and underrepresented field). Melissa introduced me to a new world of work, one of NORCs (naturally occurring retirement communities), senior centers, and productive aging initiatives. Melissa observed and participated in her grandfather’s end of life care, and entered social work school determined to spend her career improving the quality of life for the aging.
One day in class, Melissa, in her characteristically humble and unassuming manner, noted, “You know, we are all just temporarily able-bodied. No one who grows old can completely defy disability.” The room grew quiet as we thought. In New York, constantly surrounded by able-bodied people climbing up and down subway stairs, clicking through turnstiles and hailing taxis, we can easily forget those who we don’t see. When was the last time you saw someone in a wheelchair on the train? Attempting to hail a cab? Often, our city insulates us from the aging community simply because our structures and systems are designed for the able-bodied among us. We begin to think we are immune to the discomfort and loss of ability that comes with growing older.
On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending LiveOn New York’s resource fair and meeting many of our city’s leaders and advocates for high-quality senior care. LiveOn New York seeks to “make sure that New York is a great place to age” through their targeted advocacy, data-driven policy, direct assistance, and innovative programs. The resource fair provided a forum for senior service organizations to connect, share ideas, and to strengthen the organization-wide partnerships that already exist.
Indeed, as a result of Tuesday’s fair, Healthify has already added and refined senior resources in our New York City database and trained many senior-centered organizations on how to use Healthify to find the resources their clients need. Our database is only as strong as the individuals and organizations we serve. Tuesday’s fair helped to ensure we continue to provide high-quality senior resources to our users. I want to extend a big thank you to LiveOn New York for hosting this event, and we look forward to even more collaboration in the future.