Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Senior Connection gets connected

National accreditation opens center to new options


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

National Institute of Senior Centers peer reviewer Diane Mayer, second from right, shares the benefits of gaining accreditation with Senior Connection board members, Clif Rippon, right, and Barbara Dargatz, Kathy Lynn, Carolyn Nystrom, Bonnie Marsh and Archie Levitan, clockwise from left. Express photo by Matt Furber

"I was just a member, who came and played pool and had lunch," said Archie Levitan, a Senior Connection board member who attended a special dinner party at the Senior Connection Thursday.

"And we indoctrinated him," added Kathy Lynn, a fellow board member.

Despite the party hats and festive New Year's decorations at the senior center, the board was on its best behavior since one member of the party was the eyes and ears of the National Institute of Senior Centers.

Diane Mayer, a peer reviewer from Northwest Ohio, spoke with all present to determine if the list of issues her team seeks to tick off when considering certification at senior centers was being met at the Hailey center, dubbed the Senior Connection, on Third Avenue.

"I'm going to recommend that they receive their accreditation," Mayer said Tuesday on the telephone from Ohio, after her visit here last week. On Thursday, Mayer had discussed the finer points of being a member of the relatively new federal accreditation program organized under the Nation Council on Aging. "The norm is that a senior center services 15 percent of the senior population. The (Senior Connection) serves 25 percent and it's certainly going to grow. I'm happy with participation and community volunteers."

Those who came to Thursday's dinner were interested in learning from Mayer what benefit the national accreditation would have for the Hailey center.

"It made a huge difference in our funding," said Mayer of her senior center in Defiance, Ohio. That was welcome news to former Hailey board member Barbara Dargatz, a retired schoolteacher who has been coming to the senior center for 20 years and wrote the grant for the last expansion of the building.

Mayer said community participation was also key to the success of the Hailey center in its push to gain accreditation.

"I think what's so unique about this community is that people don't compete and don't try to duplicate service," said Carolyn Nysrom, a registered nurse and director of the Hospice of the Wood River Valley in Ketchum.

Mayer also said she believes that certification will help bring more young seniors into the fold because of the ways the Senior Connection already reaches out.

"This isn't the old senior center where all the old people go to sit in rocking chairs," Mayer said. "They do a great job with intergenerational programs (involving) kids and grandparents. The community campus, that nexus, sometimes that piece isn't there and it has to be."

Senior Connection Director Brenda Shappee said the center is very busy with change, in addition to pursuing the accreditation process.

"We are developing cooperation with the Sheriff's Office for a senior watch," Shappee said. "They will help us deliver meals in bad weather."

In addition to developing an emergency exit plan, the senior center also calls to check in on seniors living home alone.

"(Seeking accreditation) has stimulated a lot of good thinking about what we need to do," Shappee said. "I'm excited. Accreditation means that we understand what we are doing, which includes expanding to accommodate the baby boomer generation ... we've really outgrown the building already."

As Mayer's accredited Ohio center became a pilot program for care givers with a substantial library, the Hailey center could reap similar benefits of the designation as one of the first 100 out of 15,000 senior centers in the country to receive the approximately six-year old accreditation, Mayer said. The center could expect to receive needed help expanding senior services, Shappee said.

"That's just the reality," Dargatz said, expressing her gratitude for the senior water aerobics class she attends. "In our community seniors are really active."

In addition to seniors stepping out, Mayer was impressed with how the Senior Connection brings people in.

"We had a bereavement camp for children here," Nystrom said, giving an example of how seniors play a role in the community after retirement.

"To be accredited you have to be like that," Mayer said.




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