AGE of Central Texas has broken ground on its new South Austin Center, a trailblazing activity and health epicenter designed to transform the lives of older adults and family caregivers in the region through resources and social wellness.
As a part of the organization's Thrive campaign with support from the St. David’s Foundation, South Austin was identified as a “service desert” for its noticeable lack of local aid for older adults and an increased number of older adults and family caregivers relocating there during the past decade.
A main feature of the new facility is a Thrive Social and Wellness Center, AGE’s adult day health care centers for older adults who are living with cognitive or physical needs. Designed as a social club, multiple activities are constantly happening simultaneously: stage performances from local musicians, dance parties, art projects, exercise classes and meals.
“We want older adults and family caregivers to thrive, so these programs provide the tools and resources to make that happen,” Chief Community Engagement Officer Rob Faubion said. “Our goal is that we want Austin to be the greatest place in the nation to grow older—and not only just grow older, but age well and have this wonderful experience of aging.”
For older adults, a day at a Thrive Social and Wellness Center begins with music, breakfast and socializing. Transportation vans pick up older adults to bring them in, members eat lunch together, and afternoons involve fun events such as ice cream making. Additionally, each day has a theme and some have designated activities; bingo on Wednesdays is a favorite.
“The atmosphere is very important. It’s colorful, it’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s a vibrant place both physically and in the air,” Faubion said. “It’s an exciting place to the point where a lot of our members [are disappointed when facilities close on holidays].”
Set to be double the size of the current largest Thrive Social and Wellness Center in Hyde Park, the new space in South Austin will serve twice as many people. To ensure it would be one of the best adult day health care centers in the country, staff toured other facilities nationwide to borrow best practices and innovative ideas.
The new site at 9400 Alice Mae Lane, Austin, will have multiple bathrooms around the center's perimeter to avoid confusion; the main room is without corners so members living with dementia who like to wander have a comfortable circular path to do so; and its massive garden has raised garden beds for accessibility.
“These wonderful members are part of our family for the day,” Faubion said. “We want to make sure that it is an amazing place that they want to be every day. At the same time, we need to make sure the family caregiver understands this is a licensed medical model center where your loved one is secure, safe and being cared for by people with extensive training in dementia.”
More than just an adult day activity and health center, the South Austin Center will be a pillar for education and house a multitude of resources for both family caregivers and older adults, including an information and resource center, the health equipment lending program, a caregiver education program called CaregiverU, and an AGE computer lab.
“[Caregiving] takes a lot of your energy, time and money, and most family caregivers don’t know where to find the resources,” Faubion said. “Having this facility as a one-stop shop where we can help the whole family is going to be huge.”
One of the biggest dangers for older adults is isolation, which drives the mission of AGE facilities to be a place where members can flourish both physically and emotionally. Not only does AGE help people age in place, but it can also be a transformative experience taking one from a survival mindset to one of renewal.
“This is just another step for us in making sure that all of Austin has the opportunity to age successfully,” Faubion said. “Older adults are the majority population in Central Texas and will be for the next 40 years. Having the resources and assistance to be able to age successfully is important because we’re assisting the largest part of our population.”
Set to finish construction in summer 2023, AGE of Central Texas is finalizing closing the gap on the funding for the South Austin Center and is recruiting the community to help with the last few expenses. Those interested in making a difference through a donation and finding more information on the new location can do so here.
Learn more about AGE of Central Texas and its work to enhance the lives of local older adults and family caregivers at https://ageofcentraltx.org/.
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