Worker Shortage Leaves Older Adults Out In The Cold

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Link to article in Faribault Daily News

By CEO, Deb Taylor

About a month ago, the Star Tribune wrote an article titled, “Shovel your sidewalk or Minneapolis will send someone to do it for $150”. In the opening paragraph, the reason given for not shoveling sidewalks was “slacking.”  Certainly, this may be true some of the time.  And the consequences may go beyond a dirty look and a fine.  What about a fall on the ice or snow?  A fall that can result in broken bones or worse. Fines like this can bring panic to older adults who aren’t physically capable of shoveling their own sidewalks and also can’t afford to pay the hefty fine. Hopefully, they have kind neighbors who are willing to help them out with shoveling. I have seen this happen in some cases but unfortunately, not in every case.  What about those who need help but aren’t getting it?

Now, you might be inclined to suggest that anyone who is unable to clear their own driveway either pay for a service or live somewhere where they don’t have to shovel. The problem with these suggestions is that many older adults living independently are living on fixed incomes, so paying a company full price to shovel their walkway is just not an option. Also, there are numerous benefits of older adults remaining an active part of the community… not just for the older adult, but for the community as a whole.

For example: According to a report done by the Stanford Center on Longevity, “children blossom not just in the embrace of parents, but also from the commitment of other adults who encourage and mentor them.” The report also states that, “Increasingly, research suggests a key ingredient for success in life is the commitment of a non-parental adult to a youth’s well-being…And the benefits are not one-directional. Research shows that pairing young and older people has positive consequences for each. In promoting the well-being of the next generation, older adults experience fulfillment and purpose in their own lives.”

As a nonprofit organization serving older adults in Minneapolis as well as Minneapolis suburbs, we try to provide a safety net to those older adults that aren’t getting assistance from neighbors and can’t afford a traditional service.  We work diligently to bring older adults into our program and provide them with the peace of mind of having someone shovel for them for the winter season at a price they can afford. However, you might be surprised to learn that our biggest hurdle is finding enough workers and volunteers to meet the numerous requests that we receive. While a strong job market is great, not having enough individuals to complete the essential Minnesota task of shoveling snow for older adults in need is not. Without this service, many older adults would be at risk for falls or other injuries if they attempt to shovel on their own or they may just decide to not go out at all causing them to become isolated during a time of year that can already be very depressing for many people. This is a big problem that, with the demographic trends, will only get worse going forward as more older residents will need help.  As we live longer lives, we don’t think about the day that we might not be able to do the things we once did.  Here at Senior Community Services, we see this as a great opportunity! We are all in this together and we should celebrate and support those who have lived in our communities the longest.

So what can you do to help, you ask? You can make a difference!  Contact us.  Help your neighbors in need.  Make the Twin Cities a better place and a better community for all ages. Help our older residents stay in their homes and neighborhoods where they want to be!  Metro readers can call 952-767-7896 to inquire about volunteering or employment opportunities.

Deb Taylor is the CEO of Senior Community Services and its Reimagine Aging Institute, a nonprofit that helps older adults and caregivers navigate aging to maintain independence and quality of life. We provide a wide array of programs — www.seniorcommunity.org