BTCF Blog | Supporting Seniors in Columbia County

BTCF Blog

Supporting Seniors in Columbia County

By Justin Burke / June 25, 2019 / News & Announcements
Supporting Seniors in Columbia County

Across the country, rural communities are contending with growing populations of older adults who make outsize contributions to civic life but can also require high levels of support and services. Aging in place in rural environments poses unique challenges, from fewer services than larger metro areas to higher rates of financial insecurity to isolation.  

In Columbia County—where the percentage of people 65 and over has grown by 24% since 2000—Berkshire Taconic’s area fund committee is taking action. For the first time, the Fund for Columbia County dedicated a portion of its grantmaking this year to projects that create a lasting and positive impact on older residents, with a particular emphasis on low-income residents. Nine nonprofits received grants for the projects below:

  • Columbia County Habitat for Humanity: $7,950 for A Brush with Kindness, which mobilizes volunteers to complete repair and improvement projects for low-income seniors aging at home. 
  • Columbia County Office for the Aging: $5,000 to produce and distribute countywide a "Safe at Home" resource booklet listing all available programs and services for seniors. 
  • Hillsdale Safe at Home Committee: $3,275 for “Safe at Home,” a project that includes a survey of needs, social events and a workshop for seniors and their caregivers to connect them to one another and the network of local nonprofit, government and health care support systems.
  • Hudson Area Library: $2,500 for Dance at the Armory, a series of dance classes and socials reminiscent of balls and swing dances held in the Hudson Armory from the 1940s to the 1960s. 
  • Neighbors of Northern Columbia County: $6,914 for Neighbors of Northern Columbia County, a self-help membership group for seniors and others with special needs who are aging in place. 
  • New Lebanon Library: $4,400 for Virtual Reality for Senior Citizens, which will use emerging technology applications on science, history and travel to stimulate memory, conversation and learning among seniors with assistance from high school students. 
  • North Chatham Free Library: $1,310 for an expansion of Enhancing Life Increasing Knowledge to serve still-working or recently retired seniors, with a focus on making the retirement years creative and vibrant. 
  • Roeliff Jansen Community Library: $5,000 for Keeping Older Adults Active in Mind and Body, a weekly balance and stretch class in a welcoming, social environment. 

In addition, the committee designated $15,000 for BTCF’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor initiative, which provides one-time grants to residents in crisis, including seniors. 

A recent visit to the Roeliff Jansen Community Library’s balance and stretch class highlighted its popularity in the community. Nearly 30 seniors filled the building on a Thursday morning to improve their postural stability, core strength, agility and coordination under the leadership of Dr. Paul Spector. These exercises contribute to the prevention of falls and help participants maintain their physical and mental health.

Library Director Tamara Gaskell says social interaction is a key component of the free class. “All studies show that exercise and social connections are very important for aging successfully, especially in a rural community where isolation and transportation can be a problem,” she said, noting that it can be difficult for seniors to travel to a gym or pay its membership fees. “This class has brought new people to the library. Participants get to know each other in a comfortable, familiar place.”

Dr. Irma Waldo of Hillsdale, who is 94 years old and has served the region as a physician for more than 50 years, said the class is improving her strength and balance. “This program is excellent. The exercises for stretching, walking and getting up from the floor are all extremely important. Dr. Spector is a very good leader who is a good example for us,” she said. “And everyone in the class has become good friends.”

Generous acts by several Columbia County residents have expanded the Fund for Columbia County’s grantmaking reach. A one-time gift from BTCF fundholders Alice Corbin and the late Norma Edsall supported the grants focused on seniors, while a substantial bequest established by the late Louise McCord nearly doubled the fund’s overall grantmaking capacity. This gift has allowed the committee to continue its regular grants for nonprofit collaborations while applying learning from Berkshire Taconic’s community assessment and strategic planning processes to pursue new strategies for improving lives.

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