An Interview with Patricia Osage, Executive Director of Life Eldercare

Q: What is LIFE ElderCare about and what do you all do?
PO: In a nutshell, we serve frail elders – and some disabled non-seniors - who live alone or simply don’t have the help they need to thrive at home. Meals on Wheels is our most well-known service but we also have a nationally award winning volunteer transportation program and we do evidence based, in-home fall prevention work. A recent AARP study showed most people want to age at home where they feel most comfortable. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a skilled nursing facility, but you usually can’t bring your cat or your favorite couch and you definitely can’t bring the wonderful sense of familiarity that comes with years of waking up in your own space. The common phrase is “aging in place”. LIFE ElderCare makes sure they flourish in place, too.

Q: What do you love most about LIFE ElderCare (LIFE) and the work you all do?
PO: Free and accessible elder care is part of a strong social justice system. Most of the folks we serve worked hard their whole lives. They shouldn’t have to scrimp on medicine now in order to pay their rent. They shouldn’t have to eat dry cereal because their arthritic hands are too crippled to cook, or skip doctor visits because they have no family left to help them. I feel so honored to be part of a movement that does something about this in such a concrete way. And I love that LIFE ElderCare does it with the power of hundreds of community volunteers. In a way, the volunteer aspect is like another LIFE ElderCare program; they seem to get as many health benefits as the clients by doing this work.

Q: How has LIFE made a difference and what impact do you still wish to see LIFE ElderCare make?
PO: We deliver 105,000 meals a year and give thousands of doctor trips. South and Central Alameda County would be a far less healthy and lonelier place to grow old without LIFE ElderCare. It’s not uncommon for us to hear that a senior had been getting used to “being a little hungry” or hadn’t seen their dentist in years because they were “scared of getting lost” before finding out about LIFE. Science shows lack of social contact leads to early death so even just the frequent human connection that comes by default with our services is saving lives. We also see elders who’d fallen multiple times regain strength and balance from our evidence-based fall prevention program that trains local nursing students to go into the homes, teach exercises and help elders make their homes safer.

Q: What is so special about LIFE and how can people make a difference?
PO: LIFE connects people with each other and with basic services that solve complex, expensive problems. And by doing so, prevents enormous numbers of ER and hospital visits and too-early institutionalizations. As the Bay Area ages, the need is growing and our goal is to meet that need fully. By 2030, one in five of us will be age 65+ so we and our sister eldercare nonprofits need all hands on deck. Call your local Meals on Wheels and offer to deliver a couple of times a month. Or volunteer some other way; it makes such a positive difference to your community… and it keeps you young! Write to info@LifeEldercare.org

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