HOST ORGANIZATION: The Florida Department of Elder Affairs promotes “the well-being, safety, and independence of Florida's seniors, their families, and caregivers” so “all Floridians live well and age well.”
CORPS ASSIGNMENT: To increase the number of age-friendly communities in Florida by adding 10 more by December 2020. Florida joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in April 2019. (Check out the Member List to learn which Florida communities are currently enrolled in the network.)
A native of Des Plaines, Illinois, Ron Goldstein has lived in Tallahassee since 1989. After graduating from the University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he spent more than two decades working in Florida state agencies, including the Department of Management Services, Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Health. He applied to the Livable Communities Corps as a way to continue serving after his retirement. The assignment to work at the Department of Elder Affairs was a perfect fit. “I knew Florida had enrolled in AARP’s age-friendly network and, being of that demographic, I thought it would be a great opportunity to help move the work forward,” he says, adding, “my mother passed away from dementia. I wish I had been aware of all the available resources.”
THE NEED FOR THE WORK:
People age 65 or older make up almost 20 percent of Florida's population, and nearly 56 percent of people living in Sumter County are 65-plus, the highest percentage of any county in the nation. “Throughout the next decade, the population of older Floridians is expected to increase by nearly 40 percent, so it is essential that communities are prepared,” Florida Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said in 2019. “Our efforts continue as we work to make Florida a place where we can all live and live well.”
1. Encourage more of Florida's towns, cities and counties to enroll
Since the decision by a community to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities begins at the local level, Goldstein planned to assist department staff and AARP in promoting the network and the work of being age-friendly.
His first days on the job were spent helping to identify food sources and food banks for elderly people who were sheltering at home. It was “an all hands on deck jumping-in opportunity," says Goldstein. “The age-friendly network initiative changed its focus to deal with providing needed services for Floridians.”
CHANGE OF PLANS:
Goldstein has used his time to research the network's enrollment trends and community reasons for joining. He reached out to contacts in rural communities in the northern part of the state to start a dialogue about what it means to be an age-friendly community. That research proved invaluable.
“We’ve been working on a tool kit to roll out to the Dementia Care and Cure Initiative task forces around Florida," explains Derinda Kirkland, Goldstein's supervisor and the bureau chief of elder rights in the Department of the Elder Affairs. "The tool kit will allow the department to bring more task forces on board by giving them the right information and tools for getting started and being effective. A lot of the materials have come from Ron’s research. If we don’t get the new task forces developed this year due to the pandemic, we'll at least have the materials ready to move forward.”
Goldstein's 10 new communities by December remains his goal. But even if that number can't be reached, Goldstein feels his year in the Livable Communities Corps will have been a success. “I haven’t lost my enthusiasm yet!” he says. "The intergenerational association of Public Allies with AARP, and its funding through AmeriCorps, is a great opportunity. I’ve received so much from getting to meet the other corps members working elsewhere in the country."
Reporting by Amy Lennard Goehner
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