Lifelong Takoma Makes Impact in First Year
By Kevin Adler
Since its inception in spring 2014, Lifelong Takoma has made significant strides in helping people 55-plus and those with disabilities maintain their independent lives in the community. But so much more can be done, says Karen Maricheau, manager of the program.
Clearly, the message is resonating with the community. In the first few months, Lifelong Takoma received two or three assistance requests a week. “Now I receive on average of three, sometimes more, resident requests a day,” she says.
In just its first year—which included several months of startup effort—Lifelong Takoma responded to 225 requests for assistance, according to a report provided to the City Council in the spring. Volunteers contributed 532 hours of assistance, estimated to have an economic more than $16,000.
“There is never a dull moment, and I find myself feeling challenged and rewarded by helping residents,” Maricheau says. “I couldn’t imagine a better job. It’s not always easy, but neither are the circumstances residents struggle with day in and day out. I feel blessed to be where I am and doing what I do.”
Lifelong Takoma was designed to coordinate city services and volunteer efforts to enable the 23 percent of Takoma Park residents who are seniors to live “with reduced or no barriers” as they go about their daily lives. Support can come in almost any form, from a ride to a doctor’s appointment, to help filling out a complicated form, to house maintenance.
When Maricheau began her part-time position with the city last spring, she embarked on a listening tour to hear from residents about their priorities and to explain the support that Lifelong Takoma could provide. She also reached out through the first annual Lifelong Takoma Day last September, which attracted about 130 people.
What do residents need? Priorities include health management, health and dental care, caregiver support, finances, socialization and inclusion, transportation, advocacy, home and property management, legal assistance and planning, food assistance and nutrition, eviction prevention, and employment.
As the list indicates, the needs vary from single events to longer-term issues. “I have been getting more and more longterm, multi-faceted requests, and in these cases, some residents truly would benefit from case management,” Maricheau says. “There are resources for this through the county and some local nonprofits. Some of the help I am able to provide, and for other kinds I refer the resident to other programs, services, and resources that may be more effective for what they need.”
Lifelong Takoma has achieved some notable successes in its short existence.
Numerous residents have been linked to meals programs, and others have been linked to home care and home-based medical services. Others now have access to free transportation that enables them to attend medical appointments, as well as social events and worship services.
One high-profile effort occurred during the winter through a partnership with the Takoma Park Middle School Difference Makers. The teenage “Snow Angels” shoveled walkways and sidewalks at 42 residences without charge.
Lifelong Takoma also participated in the recent Energy Service Day last month. Volunteers received training and supplies from the city’s Environmental Sustainability Program, and they went in teams to homes to offer ideas about home energy efficiency.
Coming on Aug. 4 is another event at which Lifelong Takoma will play a big role: The National Night Out. Piney Branch Elementary is hosting the activities, beginning at 7:30 p.m., and Maricheau will be onsite to share information about Lifelong Takoma.
“This event is sponsored by the Takoma Park Police, and they will be explaining how to improve your ‘situational awareness,’” she says. “You can get tips, learn strategies and practice personal safety behaviors.”
More projects are ahead, especially as Lifelong Takoma builds on already established relationships with local churches, the Village of Takoma Park volunteers, Washington Adventist and local businesses, among others.
“My goal is to propose more support, financial, and staffing down the road,” Maricheau says. “The purpose would be so that the Lifelong Takoma program could acquire and use a database that allows for follow-up with residents. It would enable us to see if residents felt their issues were acknowledged and to learn if they received the help that they needed from the places where they were referred.”
She also plans to reach groups that haven’t yet been served. “Communication barriers prevent real inclusion of non-English-speaking residents,” she says. “At the next Lifelong Takoma Day, we plan to offer interpreter services. This may particularly help residents express themselves when we have the Community Conversation during the event.”
These are ambitious plans, but Maricheau is confident and optimistic. “I have been fully supported by the City Council and my supervisor, City Manager Suzanne Ludlow,” she says. “I feel blessed to be where I am, doing what I’m doing.”
This article appeared in the August 2015 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.