By Amy Heydlauff
If you aren’t in the mood for a whole column, promise you will skip to the last two paragraphs. In this column, the conclusion is significant for our communities.
If you are familiar with 5 Healthy Towns Foundation (5HF), you are aware our focus is preventing chronic illness or progression of a disease for those who are already dealing with an illness.
Prevention sometimes hinges on resources at our disposal. In semi-rural America, like our communities, resources that aren’t available include long-distance sidewalk systems, public/mass transportation or Uber. If you can’t drive for any reason, you can be stranded. Truly, up a creek… But there is no logic or funding for sidewalks along all our back roads or subways, trains and trolleys to connect us to necessary services.
Transportation is not often associated with health. But it can be critical for the homebound of all ages, particularly seniors. People who are unable to get out often suffer from loneliness, a precursor (predecessor) to depression. Both loneliness and depression undermine our physical health so dramatically they have the same effect on our well-being as smoking and obesity. A person stuck in their rural home is more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes or other chronic ailments than a person just like them who can safely drive or walk to connect with others.
Enter Chelsea Senior Center (CSC). One of their current goals is to connect seniors to what they need, even if they don’t have reliable transportation. This is not a pie-in-the-sky goal. They have a good plan.
Gary Munce, CSC’s board president, and Trinh Pifer, their executive director, recently described concierge services offered by Lyft, Uber, and GoGoGrandparent. The Senior Center plans to work with these ride share services, the Wave Bus and volunteers to get people where they need to be and when they need to be there. That includes transporting people to appointments and grocery or other shopping as well as places where they can socialize, have a meal or attend church.
They will offer the service far and wide in our 5 Healthy Towns. Logistics and program set-up are expensive, though.
Chelsea Senior Center has an opportunity to win $50,000 in start-up funds through an amazing grant competition called Vital Seniors: A Community Innovation Competition. The competition includes a call for community members to vote for their one favorite idea out of ten.
Chelsea Senior Center must win the popular vote to receive the $50,000. And our little rural communities will be up against urban projects in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, where the potential voter numbers will significantly exceed ours.
Here’s why we think we can win the money for CSC even in the face of stiff competition. This program will serve all five communities. We care about our senior neighbors. We know each other and we’re 48,000 people strong. Our communities stick together – all five of them. And support each other.
Every one of your email addresses gets one vote. Use all your addresses and ask your friends, neighbors, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, co-workers – everyone you know, no matter where they live, to vote for Chelsea Senior Center by going to www.chelseaseniors.org.
Follow the directions to vote. Put it on your facebook page and start a chain letter if you want. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 21, let’s get out the vote!