“The only time you should ever look back, is to see how far you’ve come.” -- Berta Lippert
Soon we will be closing the books on 2022. It has been a year of change and growth at Benjamin Rose, as we adapted to changing environments and sought out ways to meet the needs of older adults and family caregivers.
When the year began, many COVID protocols were still in place. Like many agencies, our programs were delivered remotely, online or in limited settings in an effort to limit community spread. This presented challenges for a population on the wrong side of “the digital divide.” Fewer than one-third of the clients we surveyed had access to a computer or laptop in the home. Fewer than half had high-speed internet available to them. Benjamin Rose partnered with other agencies to offer Wi-Fi access, computers and computer literacy and other online programs to help older adults gain access to services. And we expanded our own virtual presence in other areas, including behavioral health counseling, financial education and caregiver supports, all the while looking forward to reopening in-person programming and services.
Widespread availability of vaccines, and consistent adherence to safety protocols helped lower the incidence of COVID in the community, so in March, our Rose Centers reopened, offering programming and daily meals for participants for the first time in two years. Group therapy programs and in-person classes resumed. Our Senior Prom event returned in July, and participants celebrated with a Paris-themed party with dinner and dancing, and even crowned a prom king and queen. In August, we honored graduates and course completers of ESOP programs with our Triumph celebration. Earlier this month, the Caregiving Conference returned, with a day of keynote lectures, expert panels and workshops addressing caregiving for persons living with dementia. While in-person programs and events returned, we continued to provide online and remote programs, helping reduce barriers to access and growing our impact in the community.
The past year provided many opportunities for advocacy for issues important to older adults. One of our first in-person events in 2022 was hosting a listening session for the Strategic Action Plan for Aging (SAPA) to help guide investment in aging services in Ohio. We also hosted, in partnership with the Center for Community Solutions, a Senior Forum with candidates for Cuyahoga County Executive. We partnered with the Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition (MHAC) to relaunch the Ohio Aging and Behavioral Health Alliance, to raise awareness of the mental health needs of older adults. We partnered with Cleveland VOTES to promote civic participation among older adults, and offered a series of advocacy workshops throughout the year to raise awareness of federal, state and local policies that affect older adults and family caregivers. Civic engagement and community participation are vital to empowering older adults and ensuring their voices are heard in the public square.
2022 was also a year of program innovations. Our caregiver support programs expanded their support into new geographic areas, and pilot programs introduced these proven, evidence-based services to new populations, including persons living with developmental disabilities, and older adults living alone. We continued our partnership with the Family Caregiver Alliance to broaden access to caregivers supports nationwide, through Best Practice Caregiving. Best Practice Caregiving offers information on a variety of proven caregiver support programs, and will soon offer a consumer-facing app that will help individuals find programs available in their communities.
Benjamin Rose, in describing the purpose of the institute that bears his name, told the story of a colleague who was at risk of losing his home. Housing and housing supports have always been central to the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging’s mission, and 2022 was a year that we expanded our investment in housing. This spring, we launched a new website for Branches Real Estate. Branches is the only nonprofit real estate brokerage in the state of Ohio, focusing on helping lower-income home buyers find available properties, helping promote owner-occupied housing and putting families on a path to generating generational wealth. Stable housing is key to aging with dignity, and Branches complements our ESOP programs in first-time home buying, financial literacy, foreclosure prevention, financial education and advocacy services.
Our second major investment in housing is the renovation and expansion of Margaret Wagner House. Margaret Wagner House opened in 1960, as a state-of-the-art skilled care facility. As we shifted our focus to more community-based programs, the building hosted our adult day program, the original Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) in Ohio, and the prep kitchen for the Rose Centers’ nutrition programs. For the past twenty years, it has also offered affordable housing for older adults. This year, we secured funding tax credits to renovate the entire building and add twenty additional apartment units to the property. This multi-million dollar project will break ground in 2023 and add to the available high-quality, affordable senior housing in our community. We look forward to sharing our progress with you on this project in the year ahead.
All of the examples above were made possible because of the generous support of our community partners, our donors, volunteers and staff. Together, we made 2022 a year when we emerged from the pandemic, stronger and more committed than ever to our mission. We are proud of the work in the past year, and eager for the year ahead. Thank you for joining us on this journey.