The following article was published in the Herald-Citizen and can be found here


With an aging population becoming more and more prevalent in the Upper Cumberland, officials are taking steps to better serve that demographic.

“How do we provide a better quality of life, and how do we keep people in their homes longer?” said UCHRA Executive Director Mark Farley during a roundtable discussion by the agency’s Policy Council Wednesday. “One thing we want to avoid is people moving into long term care facilities. That’s an immense cost … and nobody really wants to do that.”

The council heard from Anna Lea Cothron, System Transformation Director with the Tennessee Division of TennCare, who said the region is actually doing better than other parts of the state when it comes to providing services for an aging population.

“You guys in the Upper Cumberland are way ahead of the game on this,” she said, noting that Livingston and Crossville have been recognized as “Age-Friendly Communities.”

Cothron has been working on developing a statewide Multisector Plan for Aging that will be presented to the governor later this year.

“We’ve taken a lot of the information (about programs) that you have implemented and have been successful (with), and really tried to put it into the plan to help show other communities how they can support older adults.”

The plan is expected to include recommendations about a number of topics,  including in-home care services, dealing with scams targeting seniors and, potentially, rebranding senior centers.

“I think as long as I’ve been working here, there’s been discussion about rebranding senior centers to remove the term ‘senior’ from the names of those centers so that it is more conducive to the older population wanting to come through those doors,” said Holly Williams, director of the Area Agency on Aging and Disability. “So many times we have heard (from) those who say ‘I’m not old enough to go to a senior center. I am not going to be considered a senior.'”

Williams said the agency is in the process of conducting a survey on what a better term might be.

“We just started it, so we’re in the early stages,” she said. “We started out by surveying our senior center directors, asking them to survey their boards, their city and county mayors. And then we’re going to be looking at developing another survey that would be for the general public.

“Some other states have already made these changes, and they’ve reaped the benefits by seeing some growth at their centers.”

Williams said centers “are more focused on health-related activities these days than when they were first established.”

“So we have tossed out some possible names … that incorporate that wellness or that health component in the name,” she said.

Farley said, “I think we’ve got to be open to stuff like that. With this changing dynamic, we can’t just sit back and offer the same programs that we’ve always offered.”