Highland Park Neighbors Magazine Articles


Support for Older Adults in Our Community

Seniors deserve the opportunity to age in place, be safe in their homes, and enjoy life in our community. Being active and engaged also improves their social, emotional, and physical health. Yet, they often need help with daily routines, getting around town, participating in activities, and connecting with friends. Finding the help they need, determining how to pay for it, solving legal issues, and discovering community support are also challenges for many seniors. These issues dissipate, however, when appropriate programming is accessible and affordable. Highland Park Community Foundation (HPCF) is committed to ensuring positive outcomes and improving the overall quality of life for all Highland Park and Highwood residents, including older adults.

There are a number of programs and services available for older adults in our community, such as those offered by Highland Park’s Senior Center. However, for seniors 85 years of age and older, who have compromised mobility or cognitive impairment, there is a resource gap. That’s where Southeast Lake County Faith in Action Volunteers, one of HPCF’s grant recipients, focuses its work. “The kind of services that are out there don’t always fulfill seniors’ needs. For example, those with compromised mobility need assistance when leaving the home — our volunteers go to their door, help them to the car, and provide escorted transportation for errands they need to run. Our volunteers are trained and supervised to carry out this sort of escorted transportation that is not offered by anyone else in the community,” said Robbie Boudreau, Executive Director

Faith in Action Volunteers is about more than escorted transportation, however. Their programs and services fill gaps in four areas of unmet needs: transportation, social support, behavioral health, and resource counseling. In terms of social support, for example, Faith in Action founded a group known as the Supportive Older Women’s Network (SOWN) where women come together in social settings for activities like dinners, women’s discussion groups, and pet therapy. “We identified that there were a number of older women who needed to start developing a family of friends to lean on, so we started SOWN to help facilitate that.” Additionally, Faith in Action offers a Movement and Balance class in the Frank Peers building to remove obstacles that impede older adults from incorporating age-appropriate fitness into their lives.

HPCF Grant Recipient Southeast Lake County Faith in Action Volunteers

500 community members. “The HPCF has helped with capacity building and has allowed us to create new programs. We became a dementia friendly business, and we now have some dementia friendly special services in addition to having volunteers who are dementia friends that can provide special resource counseling to family caregivers. Additionally, we have a family caregiver support group.”

Faith in Action Volunteers is a non-denominational and inter-faith, volunteer-based organization. “Volunteers come from a variety of different churches and synagogues as well as coming from the community in general. We are always looking for additional volunteers to help us grow and reach more seniors in the community,” Robbie added.

Seniors also need places to safely engage in physical activity and express themselves artistically and spiritually. HPCF grant recipient, Time to Dance, focuses on just that, providing adults 50 years old and above a safe space to take ballet, dance fitness, modern, and tap dance classes. Co-Founder Lynne Belsky notes that “Seniors in any community can have problems with isolation and interconnectedness, and it can be hard for our older population to get the exercise that their doctors recommend. So, on a basic level, that’s what we do: provide a community of people who can move together and improve their wellbeing in mental, social, and physical ways.” Lynne, a professional dancer, along with Lisa Gold, dance educator and owner of Highland Park’s North Shore School of Dance, realized this shared vision by creating the nonprofit, Time to Dance.

With the support of HPCF grant funding, Time to Dance is offering a “Free Day of Dance” for adults 50 and up on Sunday, April 14. Morning and afternoon sessions, each with an 80-person capacity, will include 20-minute trial segments of the four types of dance classes they offer. Registration is available on the Time to Dance website, time-to-dance.org. Over the past six years, Time to Dance has grown substantially, recruiting new students and teachers, and starting new classes to reach an even greater number of older adults. It has also, in a relatively short time, developed into an influential organization that positively impacts its students, as attested to by student Caryn Newburger, “Going to class is the highlight of my day. The positive feeling that comes from it carries with me for the rest of the day.”

HPCF Grant Recipient Time to Dance

In addition to offering dance classes, Time to Dance participates in outreach events at a number of senior living and memory care facilities. “Our students have an opportunity to perform at these events, and we also get people there to join in and dance with us. It gives our students a goal to work toward throughout the year and encourages even more seniors to sign up for classes,” said Lynne

Lynne said she hopes to expand their offerings by adding a basic beginning class. “Our beginning ballet class has been going on for six years now and is a huge hit. All of our classes are drop in and it can be difficult for a new person to walk in and just start learning, so we’re ready to add a basic beginning class.” Lynne also noted that, “Scholarships are available for community members if they contact us about it. We believe no one should be turned away based on their ability to pay.” Finally, Lynne recognizes how important safe movement practices can be for seniors. “I’m a physician and a physical therapist, and we have taken education on safe dance practices. People feel more comfortable because we adapt the classes and the moves to what they can do.”

HPCF’s Board is grateful for all Time to Dance and Faith in Action Volunteers do forHighland Park and Highwood seniors. To learn more about them and our other grant recipients, visit hpcfil.org.