A storm of aging is raging in America: Waves of retiring baby boomers on a tide of super seniors in need of ever-increasing care; a torrent of requests swamping eldercare agencies and charities; and financial gales battering seniors and their families as they try to shelter in place.
Deborah Stone-Walls, Maui County Office on Aging (MCOA) executive, is optimistic as she “sails through the perfect storm.” Her peers throughout the United States recently elected her as first vice president of the National Association of Area Agencies in Aging, aka “n4a.”
On Maui, Deborah and her crew successfully optimize programs for active seniors, frail super seniors and family caregivers. They coordinate with nonprofits, county and state programs through a virtual electronic ADRC (Hawai’i Aging and Disability Resource Center) with an 800 number to intake seniors in need.
“The County of Maui allowed me to almost double the ADRC staff,” she says. “Soon, my staff came to me with new opportunities to help seniors. I never said ‘No’ but looked for a way to move forward and fill the needs.
“Traveling to a central location is difficult for Maui seniors. Our programs and services have to reach out to kūpuna. We took EnhanceFitness™ results-oriented exercise program to places where seniors gather — churches, assisted living facilities and clubs — and partnered with them. It worked, and seniors are getting stronger.
“Like all caregivers, Maui families need support when loved ones come home from the hospital. My staff loved the Care Transitions Intervention (CTI) program, but flying in trainers to certify local coaches was too expensive. We invested $5,000 to certify a Maui CTI trainer who can train as many coaches as we need.”
Innovation continued. Deborah’s staff figured out a way to assist rural seniors and their families who live beyond the reach of home care agencies. Once strict eligibility requirements and assessment standards are met, a Community Living Program (CLP) coach helps the family chart a plan. It may be as simple as installing a dog door and run for a homebound senior, or a walk-in tub. Again, the answer is listening, never saying ‘no,’ and delivering exactly what people need.
In the future, Deborah says aging professionals will have to promote an easy, attractive process for staying healthy, teach chronic disease self-management and believe that people can get stronger at any age. She encourages seniors to stay healthy and use their assets to pay for their own healthcare, as a way of blessing their children. Around the corner, Deborah sees new products like debit cards that give seniors nontechnical access to Uber and Lyft, and renal or diabetic diet meals, shipped directly to your door.
Healthcare innovator, eVillages, recently selected Flint, Mich., and Maui as two pilot communities in the U.S. Doctors at these sites will be connected via internet to extensive medical information and consultation by eminent physicians at over 300 locations around the world.
Deborah Stone-Walls is in line to lead n4a. She shares her “never say no” recipe for success on the national level and brings fresh ideas back to Hawai‘i. She charts a course, collaborating with peers, county and state government, ADRC staff and thousands of volunteers. We all benefit from their work. As the storm rages, we rest assured with Deborah Stone-Walls at the helm.
MAUI COUNTY OFFICE ON AGING