- What is the difference in engAGING Communities Tennessee and INDEED?
engAGING Communities Tennessee is an organization that represents organizations and individuals who strive to advance the care of older adults in Tennessee. The organization evolved from two entities: the COVID-19 Older Adult Community Workgroup and the Southeast Tennessee Dementia-Friendly Coalition. engAGING Communities Tennessee is involved in several projects and meets routinely to ensure older adults and caregivers are supported in local communities. Dr. Kristi Wick, Vicky B. Gregg Chair of Gerontology at UTC’s School of Nursing facilitates this group. You can reach her at [email protected].
The Intrastate Network to Deliver Equity and Eliminate Disparities (INDEED) is the acronym for grant UTC’s School of Nursing received from the Tennessee Department of Health. This grant will engage with faith-based and religious communities to provide education, support, and networking opportunities for those who serve older adults. As such, INDEED is bundled with engAGING Communities Tennessee for branding and networking purposes.
- Who is an “Older Adult”?
People often ask, “What age is an older adult"? The truth is, we all age differently. We each face challenges that are unique to our own stories. Our environment, level of health, and access to community resources determine the level of support we each need to age successfully. In general, when referring to older adults, most people are speaking of adults who fall into the age group of 65 years or older.
- Why the focus on Older Adults?
Older adults are healthier when they have food, transportation, affordable housing, health care, and are socially active. With the support of trained volunteers, they have better quality of life and are less likely to go to the emergency room or need hospitalization. They are also able to live independently in their homes longer, delay nursing home admission, and prevent early death.
It is important for us to communicate that we can all age successfully, and that there are resources in the community for support. The trick is identifying community resources and teaching local volunteers how to access them.
- Why Faith-Based and Religious Communities?
Faith-based and religious congregations are in a unique position to provide support specific to the ethnic and racial needs of underserved communities. The bond of shared faith and religious beliefs helps older adults and caregivers trust information given by volunteers as it pertains to healthcare needs. These volunteers can communicate the information in a manner that is easily understood in their community, which is consistent with their beliefs and values. With this in mind, engAGING Communities Tennessee is reaching out to communities across Tennessee to offer FREE culturally specific trainings for congregants who wish to volunteer as care connectors to serve older adults.
- What do you mean by “Answering the Call”?
Tennessee faith-based and religious leaders, volunteers, and congregants have been committed to answering the call when residents are in need in their local communities and across the state. Here are two examples:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we watched countless faith-based and religious communities step up to support not only their congregants, but also their surrounding neighborhoods. These communities provided food, transportation, and found ways to provide socialization and spiritual support in homes or nearby nursing facilities. In addition, faith-based and religious communities stepped up to provide safe locations and volunteers for both COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Many religious community leaders served on local committees and led campaigns to increase awareness about COVID-19 prevention and spread. These trusted community heroes filled the gaps in neighborhoods while health care providers tended to those in hospitals and clinics across the state of Tennessee. The loss of life due to COVID-19 was tremendous, however, many lives were saved or made better by caring people who answered the call for service.
It is not uncommon to see faith-based and religious communities participate in emergency or disaster response networks with volunteers who stand ready to serve at a moment’s notice. Over the past few years, Tennessee communities have been ripped apart by several tornadoes and floods. Residents were left without food, housing, or clothing but not without hope. Our faith-based and religious communities are always first in line to answer the call by providing manual labor or much needed supplies and resources. Their presence during times of disaster brings assurance based on the trust developed within their communities. We look to build on that trust to help us spread this information to all our ninety-five counties.
From these examples, we see the importance of building and strengthening support for our vulnerable communities. Neighborhoods with less access to public health and community support are healthier when trusted leaders and volunteers live and work in the local community. They are bonded by the connection of someone who also understands the history, values and beliefs that shape the lives of their congregants.
- What is a “Dementia-Friendly Community”?
As you may know, the population of older adults in Tennessee is rapidly growing and older adults are at especially high risk for poor health outcomes related to dementia and caregiving. As the number of people living with dementia increases, the need for community support has never been more important. To that end, the Tennessee Department of Health has answered the call by developing a dementia-friendly community toolkit that provides guidelines on how to build community capacity to meet the needs of people living with dementia and their caregivers. One of the goals is to engage faith-based and religious communities in activities which not only provide education and support for those living with dementia and their caregivers, but also provide opportunities for leaders, volunteers, and congregants to serve those who are unable to attend typical worship services and activities.
- How is The University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s School of Nursing involved?
As an extension of recent work on behalf of persons living with dementia and their caregivers, UTC School of Nursing continues to promote awareness of dementia friendly communities. The Intrastate Network to Deliver Equity and Eliminate Disparities (INDEED) provides a unique opportunity to partner with and reach vulnerable communities who were heavily impacted by COVID-19 and who historically struggle with equitable access to health care and social supports.
- Who are your core partners?
We have partnered with the following organizations who provide expertise and resources for older adults and caregivers in Tennessee:
- Who can volunteer?
Anyone who has a heart for service can volunteer. Ideally, volunteers should work with congregation leadership to maximize the success of the program.
- What is the cost?
There is no cost. All course materials and training tools are free. We will even feed workshop attendees!
- More Questions?
If you have questions about INDEED or need more information, please email [email protected] or click to Learn More.