"Life's most persistent and urgent question is:
What are you doing for others?"
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
CareWheels: Circles of PeerCare
Transform elders into shared resources capable of expanding the eldercare workforce to meet the needs of our aging populations.
Elders are one resource capable of scaling-up to meet the growing magnitude of unmet eldercare needs, tackle loneliness and foster helpful relationships based on mutual support, trust and camaraderie.
Lake Oswego, Oregon is Ground-Zero for disruptive U.S. Aging Demographics. This graph uses Census data to show how the population age distribution is changing. Observe that the only population segments showing significant growth are those aged 55 to 75+ while children and Generation X segments are in decline.
Increase in Elder Population Between 2000 and 2010
Lake Oswego's demographic trends resemble those of Japan - with the world’s oldest population, a harbinger of America’s aging future - making this an ideal place to develop and test the CareBank. A distressing New York Times article describes the “4,000 lonely deaths a week of the world’s most rapidly aging society” in which Japanese elders “died without anyone knowing, only to be discovered after their neighbors caught the smell.” Is this a fate that awaits 14 million older Americans who are living alone?
That was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now infections are spiking and senior residential facilities have become foci of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 80% of COVID-19-related deaths in the United States have been among adults aged 65 years and older and 40% of the country’s pandemic fatalities have occurred in long-term care facilities. We need safe, affordable, home-based alternatives for our most vulnerable people.
COVID Contagion Rollercoaster: Vulnerable People Need to Shelter-in-Place Two Years
Epidemiologists predict waves of infections. The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order has left many people struggling with social isolation resulting in existential loneliness – a profound loss of connection, meaning and purpose – causing depression, substance abuse and a startling rise in the numbers of suicide attempts by older adults.
The current pandemic has accelerated the CareBank Project. There is growing recognition of the potential benefits of community-based TeleCare to provide security while maintaining CDC social distancing guidance. The City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is collaborating with CareWheels to conduct formative research with vulnerable Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) elders and members of the disabilities, immigrant and refugee communities in Oregon to co-develop culturally aware language and materials to describe PeerCare. Our goals are to develop an inclusive design for the CareBank App and propagate PeerCare beyond Oregon to every community that needs it.
Pilot Participants' Testimonials
I am Art Henderson, an active member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, where I facilitate the Technology and Learning Special Interest Group meetings and serve Meals on Wheels. I am also a mentor at SCORE, where I provide volunteer business counseling based on 38 years of experience as the president of electronic component manufacturing and sales companies. This letter is to describe the benefits I have seen in the CareWheels CareBank Group.
The CareBank makes it easy for us to be a peer support group. The simplicity of the CareBank App is its biggest advantage. This system is extremely well suited to helping people who live alone and require minimal supervision. I think every person living alone should be covered by a CareWheels system because this system will signal a health problem or death in circumstances where there might otherwise be no indication of a problem. The CareBank is proving to be beneficial to help keep our CareWheels Group safely in contact as we shelter in place to protect from the Coronavirus pandemic.
- Art Henderson, Participant, CareBank Pilot, 2020
I am thankful for participating in this CareBank program. Who knew how much we would need each other in this time of COVID!
It’s like an Advanced Directive – you want to get this set-up before you need it.
You don’t want to wait for a crisis to implement something that will help you stay safe at home.
It feels like someone’s looking out for you. Yeah! Someone cares. So you have to keep up your routine to let them know that you’re okay.
I think it’s very beneficial because what goes around comes around. If I’m going to be a good, helpful monitor, someone will do the same for me.
That’s what life’s all about – The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
I would definitely recommend it. It’s a brilliant idea!