A few weeks ago, we received a very kind note from an older neighbor. It read in part:
"Thank you for all you do to work with this local program for seniors who sometimes are forgotten in society and fall through the cracks of life."
I read that sentence over and over again, imagining the hand that wrote it, the home the writer lived in, the compassion in her heart. I tried to see VPAS the way she sees us, pulling someone up out of a dark crevice of poverty, chronic illness, loneliness, hunger, abuse.
The phone beeps in the office next door. It's a staff member at Adult Protective Services. They have removed someone from an abusive environment. She is 75, nearly blind, and suffers from diabetes. Can we help stabilize her and get her on a path to recovery?
We can. This is what she means - the woman who sent us the note. This is someone who has fallen though the cracks.
A VPAS case manager visits, assesses her new home environment, asks the right questions. Not long after that, this neighbor begins receiving warm, healthy meals from someone who smiles, tells her jokes, and gives her hope. We deliver hygiene items to her door and give her rides to her doctor so she can get her diabetes under control. We find assistive devices to help her navigate her new apartment. She will stay in our circle of care as her needs evolve.
We've patched up one crack and are pointing her down a path that will lead to greater health, security, and independence.
Other people we work with are well down that path. They want to learn about how to save for retirement, how to find the best prescription drug plan, how to create a living will, or what exercise plans they can try to build mental acuity. We meet them where they are, with the resources and opportunities they need to lead even more engaged lives.
These successes pile up day after day: patched cracks, longer, smoother paths, and people becoming the best versions of themselves.
But on the rare occasions when it gets quiet at VPAS, what sneaks into the corner of our minds is concern for the cracks we can't see.
That's when we look to you. You are our eyes and ears. You notice that the man down the street hasn't come out of his house in a while. You hear the frustration in your co-worker's voice when she doesn't know how to help her father with dementia. You see your mom struggling to understand her Medicare plan. At church, you overhear that the best tenor in your choir stopped coming because he walks with a cane and is afraid of falling.
Our friend who sent the note had everything right about what we do at VPAS. These are people we can help, cracks we can repair. And, in doing so, we can build a path toward a community where everyone can age well.