LBFE seeks to build inclusive communities that span generations and cultures to prevent and relieve isolation and loneliness while fighting an often overlooked social bias: ageism.
In the last two years, LBFE has taken a critical look at our program model and how to best serve the next generation of older adults. A major part of building this strategy was based on our participation in the City of Boston's Age Friendly Initiative data collection and focus groups. Our new model, based off of our CitySites program described below, is designed around PREVENTING isolation and loneliness rather than RELIEVING it. This is done through building up micro-communities and moving programs to where older adults live. Our model focuses on building relationships across generations, and recognizing that each program participant, regardless of age, has something to teach, contribute, and give.
CitySites is an inter-generational program that invites college students to host weekly social activities in public and private senior housing buildings. The specific activities are determined by the students and residents based on the interests and talents of the participants, sprinkled with occasional special events around holidays. Participants form relationships with our student volunteers, and also their peers and neighbors, creating a stronger, broader social network than with our former Friendly Visiting model.
In Boston, this new generation of elders is more active, vibrant and diverse than ever before. According to the Aging in Boston Report (2015), in 2010 45% of Boston seniors were people of color, and 19% live in linguistically isolated households. Demographic trends suggest the diversity of Boston's seniors will continue to increase. We have taken note and have made a commitment to serving all elders and celebrating cultural and lingual differences. Through CitySites we aim to break down language and cultural barriers to create relationships that span generations. Our hope is that all elders living in the buildings we serve will feel connected to their community and have a strong social network to rely on in both times of need and times of joy.
In addition to direct-service programming, a large goal of CitySites is to build collaborative relationships between elder service providers in our network and the dozens of senior housing buildings across the city to improve access and knowledge of services.
Aside from CitySites, we also host a number of supplementary programs. This includes Friendship & Flowers – a monthly visiting program at assisted living facilities for volunteers of all ages, special events such as luncheons and picnics, on-call services including medical escorts and emergency food pantry, and of course our major holiday parties and meal deliveries which Bostonians have been enjoying since our start in 1979.