AARP Foundation serves the unique needs of people age 50 and over while working with local organizations nationwide to reach more people, work more efficiently and make resources go further.
In September 2012, AARP Foundation awarded a total of $682,225 in two-year grants to help nonprofit organizations create better services and systems that identify and reach out to isolated older people. Here is a list of the grantees, along with summaries of their programs:
Lifetime Arts, New Rochelle, N.Y., $170,000
Through a grant from AARP Foundation, Lifetime Arts' Creative Aging Public Libraries Project is improving the quality of life of older adults by helping public libraries across the country initiate, implement and sustain creative aging programs. Professional teaching artists lead the creative aging programs, which are offered in all arts disciplines. Through sequential instruction, older adults build new skills, explore new materials and learn a variety of art-making techniques. These programs succeed in breaking down the chronic isolation and passive existence of many older adults as they unlock expressive abilities in the trusted public space of community libraries.
Little Free Library, Hudson, Wis., $70,000
The work of Little Free Library is to serve as a connector between people, memories, ideas, art, dreams ... and stories. This nonprofit network of neighborhood book exchanges promotes a sense of community, reading for children and literacy for adults — all by building little free libraries around the world.
Through the "Touchpoints for Engagement" grant from AARP Foundation, adults 50 and older and children will be reading aloud to each other. Vulnerable, socially isolated adults, especially in low-income communities, will be looking forward to stories and "books on wheels" as well as weekly visitors. In some cases, Little Free Libraries will be located near Boys and Girls Clubs and assisted living communities.
Just as the neurological pathways and cognitive connections of small children are stimulated by reading, so too can the minds of older adults benefit. A wide variety of positives can result.
Oasis, St. Louis, $225,000
The OASIS Peers for Productive Aging Initiative aims to unite older adults in sharing knowledge and skills to help one another better cope with life's transitions, such as the loss of a spouse, loss of mobility, a move to a new home, changes in health and other impactful life events. Through a grant from AARP Foundation, OASIS will decrease perceived social isolation and increase social connectedness via its Peer Led Discussion Group program. The program uses trained adult peers, age 50 and older, to facilitate group discussions on a range of topics that affect the lives of older adults.
Selfhelp Community Services Inc., New York, $217,225
In March 2010, Selfhelp Community Services Inc. launched the Virtual Senior Center (VSC), a groundbreaking project developed with Microsoft Corp., the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) and the New York City Department for Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). The VSC uses Internet-based video connections to link homebound seniors to one another and to senior centers and other host sites. The heart of the VSC is a user-friendly computer interface specifically made by Selfhelp for elderly people, deployed on user-friendly touch-screen computers (a senior-friendly "appliance") and accessible on other hardware platforms as well. It is an innovative intervention designed to reduce social isolation and the physical and mental health problems that can stem from it. With AARP Foundation funding, Selfhelp will:
- Engage two additional senior centers, funded by the New York City Department for the Aging, to become "host agencies" (for a total of five sites) — and in that capacity create meaningful, engaging and enriching programming for VSC participants
- Add 30 low-income, homebound, elderly people to the VSC program (for a total of 82 participants when combined with other grant funding)
- Collect data on health outcomes that will better establish the efficacy of the VSC as an intervention for social isolation
- Create an evidence-based program guide, or "playbook," to guide future large-scale replication of the VSC.