My husband’s birthday is two weeks before Christmas. It happens every year. In the beginning of our marriage, I embraced the idea of layered celebrations and planned accordingly. In recent times, his turning of age is often obscured by the Christmas season.
Not that I don’t try to continue my gifting creativity. One year I gave him a certificate for a pedicure, which he graciously followed through on. But I sensed it was not the ideal gift. Another year I planned a road trip — but it snowed.
This year he has a big birthday — 75 years of living. It deserves a special kind of attention and acknowledgement. I intend to provide that.
But first I have a story. When my husband and I retired several years ago, we launched a nonprofit organization, Age-Friendly Innovators, dedicated to helping lower-income elders age in place (agefriendlyinnovators.org), but it’s increasingly being referred to as “Grandma’s Porch."
Our small but mighty nonprofit is an all-volunteer effort that focuses on reducing in-home fall risks for older adults and devotes itself to doing fall-risk assessments and installing grab bars, toilet risers, shower chairs, etc., in the homes of people who need them. Eighty percent of falls occur in bathrooms, so that’s a huge focus for us.
Along with other community organizations, we also build ramps and repair rotting steps. We ask the question, “What will it take to keep this person safer at home?” and we try to make that happen. Falls and fractures are a significant challenge at any age, but for a low-income elder, they can be full-throttle game-changers.
The name “Grandma’s Porch” grew out of the fact that our mothers, who are both now deceased, lived into their 90s on small social security incomes. They fell later in life — my mother’s fall turned out to be fatal. Had we known then what we know now about fall prevention that might not have happened.
For the record, one in seven seniors lives in poverty. One in six lives under a threat of hunger. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a sobering documentary that depicts the problem, “Old and Poor: America’s Forgotten.” It’s worth watching. That particular foundation may be an exception, but philanthropic groups overall give only 2 percent of their resources to organizations serving older adults, even though demographically, in many areas of the country, people older than 65 are almost 20 percent of the population.
Our nonprofit has a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/agefriendlyinnovation), and unbeknownst to me, my husband recently posted a desire for donations to “Grandma’s Porch” in acknowledgement of his own birthday — unlike him, but he did it. He is hoping to take advantage of the concept of matching contributions. The last time I checked, it had raised $70 in contributions — mostly from relatives it appears. Cousin Terryl — much appreciated!
There are many organizations in our communities serving older adults — trying to keep them safe, healthy and fed. Please find one to help, if you are so inclined. 'Tis the season.
— Sharon Johnson is the executive director of Age-Friendly Innovators Inc. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.