Understanding the Community

Staying Vibrant

When Deepdale CARES was still in the design stage, Samuel Field Y staff formed an ad hoc committee of core stakeholders in the community and in Deepdale Gardens, ran a series of on-site focus groups with senior residents and conducted home-based interviews with the frail elderly. Their collected insights became the basis of a needs assessment distributed to every resident of the Deepdale Gardens Cooperative.

While the results provided the basis for an initial package of services, a responsive project doesn’t stop with one survey – the task of finding out what a community looks like and what residents want is ongoing. To stay focused on a moving target, the needs assessment is repeated at Deepdale every year.

The Deepdale CARES Advisory Board is another essential tool for listening to, and learning about, the community. Residents make up about half its 22-person membership, with the remainder including representatives of the housing and health system entities, civic associations and local business, senior service providers, religious leaders, elected officials, and the Samuel Field Y.

“We are the eyes and ears of the community,” said Stanley Levitt, a resident of Deepdale for more than four decades and an advisory board member.

At a typical monthly meeting, Deepdale CARES program director Laura Greenblatt, LCSW, presents a case that captures the scope of the in-home social work and nursing services that are available. “We want board members to understand how the program works. These are our representatives in the community, and our best advocates. If they are cognizant of how we can help, they can refer people to us,” said Ms. Greenblatt.

Much of the rest of the advisory board meeting is devoted to programming. Staff always asks advisory board members, “How are we doing? What else would you like to see happen at the NORC? What are you hearing from your neighbors?”

The answers have helped Deepdale CARES to evolve and meet the changing needs. For example:

  • Nursing services have been increased as residents who were in their early 80s when the NORC program was launched move into their late 80s. (Every other age group is following the same trajectory, of course.)
  • After the new Medicare prescription drug benefit was enacted, seniors asked for, and got, guidance to use it effectively.
  • A stress management group was designed after social workers recognized stress among the residents.
  • Available exercise options became too vigorous for some of the older residents, and chair yoga was added to the palette.

With each challenge came a response that revealed Deepdale’s nimble structure. “Just doing what you’ve always been doing is not how a program stays vibrant,” said the Y's Karen Schwab. “NORCs are not static at all. Other populations and other needs keep emerging.” Continued...

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