Meeting the Growing Needs of Older Adults Through Collaborations

Meeting the Growing Needs of Older Adults Through Collaborations

Posted on November 04, 2022 by Cynthia Ayris Kemp, UPLIFT Board Member
Collaboration is one of those words that intuitively sounds like a good idea – but in practice is much more difficult to achieve. As the consultant on a research project conducted by the Village to Village Network studying collaborations between Villages and Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), I gained great insights into the process, challenges, and benefits of starting and maintaining successful collaborations.

Our findings from this seven-month project are synthesized in the Leveraging Resources Handbook: Collaborations between Villages and Area Agencies on Aging. The handbook is intended to encourage other Villages and AAAs to explore how they might leverage resources and expand capabilities to meet the growing needs of older adults through collaborations.

Villages, AAAs, and State Units on Aging share the mission of enabling older adults to live with independence and dignity in their homes and communities for as long as possible. With case studies of collaborations in suburban, urban, and rural communities across the country, the handbook provides examples that increased access to support services and provided additional options for social interaction and engagement for older adults.

The benefits of collaborating with Villages cited by AAAs include expanded capacity, extended reach, enhanced effectiveness, and improved outcomes for older adults. The Villages see connecting with AAAs as viable means to promote Village sustainability, affirm legitimacy, improve operations, and increase visibility.

The handbook highlights the key takeaways for each of the four types of collaborations outlined in the handbook’s ten case studies.
  • Village start-up – AAAs provided a wide variety of assistance to developing Villages.
  • Program support – Villages must have the operational capabilities to comply with AAA-specific requirements when seeking funding.
  • Capacity building – AAA support to enhance Village organizational and program capabilities varies based on the unique needs of the Village and the AAA’s program priorities and service capacity. Villages can also extend AAA program capabilities in a variety of ways.
  • Planning and coordination – Participation in AAA committees and other aging services groups raises awareness of Village potential and introduces the Village perspective into the policymaking process.

For Villages interested in starting collaborations, the handbook also identified four key steps to get started. While the guide provides more specific details, these steps are summarized below.

  • Prepare – Understand where the Village fits in the AAA environment.
  • Advocate – Build broad community awareness of Village benefits.
  • Cultivate – Build a relationship.
  • Engage – Start small and be patient.
The key elements to a successful collaboration include frequent and clear communications, demonstration as a trusted partner, results to help the AAA achieve its goals, evaluation to measure impact, and innovation.

Our interviews with thirty Villages, ten AAAs, and three State Units on Aging found many potential ways for the organizations to collaborate successfully. Easy ways to engage include cross-promoting programs and services, participating on committees, and sharing resources. However, it is likely that only more “mature” Villages will have the capacity to meet the requirements of more complex collaborations. While Villages and AAAs share a similar mission, Villages and AAAs do have very different roles, mandates, and operating environments that should be taken into consideration.

In closing, I wish to thank NextFifty Initiative, a foundation that supports innovative solutions to promote independence and dignity for older adults, for its generous support that made this handbook possible. UPLIFT Florida Network will certainly benefit from the lessons learned and examples provided.

Though focused on the project’s end goal, I often considered our research through the lens of UPLIFT. Throughout the project, I felt confirmation that our aspirational goal of being a statewide network of Villages and strategic partners is indeed the best way to help Florida’s older adults thrive in community.

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