Janice Tyler: New program EngAGEs with Orange County seniors

05/28/2014 6:35 PM

02/15/2015 11:23 AM

In January, the Orange County Department on Aging launched the inaugural class of a new program called Project EngAGE. We are pleased to announce that we now have 15 senior community leaders that have completed training to help spread the word about services that are available at the Orange County Department on Aging and other community services.

Project EngAGE is a 13-week leadership-training program designed to empower and enable older adult leaders to truly make Orange County an ideal place to live and age well. Our first class included Gail Alberti, Bill Barrows, Barbara Breeze, Jaki Shelton Green, Sue Heckman, Cliff Leath, Dee Lowdermilk, Rod Magson, Lenore Martin, Betty Melanson, Yvonne Mendenhall, Delores Ramsey, Donna Scandlin, Tana Hartman Thorn, and Norma White. Together, they represent the Bingham, New Hope, Eno, Cedar Grove, Little River, Cheeks, and Chapel Hill townships.

Project EngAGE partnered with the UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health and an outstanding Health Behavior Capstone Team who led the way in organizing the weekly training sessions.

Project EngAGE is modeled after Haywood Community Connections’ senior leadership program called EngAGED. Our Capstone Team elevated Haywood County’s program to the next level by adapting it to Orange County, including incorporating an evaluation process, because we want to know if the program is making a difference.

The idea of Project EngAGE grew out of the 2012-17 Master Aging Plan as a way to improve communications and outreach into the community. With a growing senior population in Orange County, the need is even greater to spread the word of the services that are available. The senior centers are our “one stop shop” for services, but there is a growing need to educate the community on the array of services that are available right at their door.

Project EngAGE leaders will be journeying through Orange County, and developing lasting relationships with key organizations and agencies. In their training, they explored topics such as Body & Mind Wellness, Aging in the Community, Healthcare, Long-term Care, Planning for Emergencies, Dementia & Caregivers, and “Understanding the System.” The five-hour weekly classes were intense and only scratched the surface of what there is to learn.

After a final session in April, the Project EngAGE inaugural class celebrated the completion of the 13-week training in a graduation ceremony held on Monday, April 28, at the Central Orange Senior Center. The graduating senior leaders have organized into teams to apply their leadership skills, expertise, and passion by utilizing a small grant to create a broad range of new and meaningful projects in their Orange County communities.

Each year, we will be offering the Project EngAGE training to other senior leaders in our community. As leaders complete the training they will be joining the existing teams to advance their work. We will also be offering on-going trainings to past graduates, giving them the opportunity to stay up-to-date on new programs in the county. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, I would love to talk further with you.

Please drop me an email at jtyler@orangecountync.gov or call me at 919-245-4255.

Janice Tyler is the executive director of the Orange County Department on Aging.

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