Getting seniors engaged: a progress report

Attending the Community Forum on Seniors Feb. 15 were members of the housing committee, from left, Colleen Ketcham, Carol McFarlane, Mary Mengel and Janet Comer; forum facilitator Cindy O’Donovan; Tara Jebens-Singh, adult programs coordinator, and Tim Maurer, director of Community Services and Recreation. 

WHITE BEAR LAKE — The engagement project spearheaded by the area school district is not about playing Cupid. It’s about getting seniors engaged in their community in areas of housing, transportation, recreation, services and wellness. 

“Sometimes we forget how much our seniors have to offer,” said School Superintendent Michael Lovett. 

Lovett kicked off a report to the community Feb. 15 pointing out the “dramatic change” in the district’s demographics: There are equal numbers of students preK-12 (10,000) as there are senior citizens over the age of 65. 

Called the Community Forum on Seniors, the project started in 2015 with a telephone survey of 1,000 households. Once areas of emphasis were identified based on survey results, community volunteers formed the five action committees. Their accomplishments have been highlighted in a video produced by ISD624 Community Services that premiered at the forum. The video, “Preparing to Care,” can be found on the district webpage: www.isd624.org/communityservices/index.asp?ID=3671 or YouTube. 

The website also offers survey results, resources and action team updates. 

Forum facilitator Cindy O’Donovan, who owns Right4Your Business, called the group “amazing” to work with and “full of enthusiasm.” 

“We are making White Bear Lake an age-friendly community,” she said. 

Some of the committee accomplishments to date include a soon-to-be-published at-home services guide and an updated area senior housing guide. A second annual housing awareness day is planned this fall and an advocacy group for affordable housing, MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing), continues its work. Affordable housing was identified as the most important community issue on the survey. 

Under the wellness initiative, the area food shelf is expanding its mobile markets program and “2nd Half with Lyngblomsten” at Redeemer Lutheran Church continues to connect adults age 50-plus to a life enrichment center.  In regards to senior transportation, an area guide is in the works. There is also a new professional networking group that meets quarterly at the Senior Center. 

It’s not too late to get involved in the senior initiatives and join one of the groups. For more information, contact Adult Programs Coordinator Tara Jebens-Singh at 651-653-3126 or tara.jebens-singh@isd624.org

Groups are welcome to share the video to “let folks know White Bear takes care of its seniors,” noted Jebens-Singh. “We want to keep the conversation going.”

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