The Town of North Hempstead’s innovative senior initiative, Project Independence, reached a milestone as the 15,000th Project Independence member signed up to be part of the town’s aging-in-place initiative. Project Independence is one of the few programs of its kind in the entire nation, offering members social worker and nursing services, social and recreational programs, community education, volunteer services and transportation.
“We are excited to be celebrating our 15,000th Project Independence member,” Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “Our Project Independence program has certainly become a vital resource for so many during the COVID-19 pandemic. Right at the beginning of the pandemic, we made it a priority to adapt and create virtual programs that would help keep seniors engaged while remaining safely at home. This aging-in-place initiative has given thousands of seniors a sense of well-being and made them more confident especially in these uncertain times.”
Tom Powell, a North Hempstead resident for 45 years, was the 15,000th member. He remarked that he was interested in meeting new people and finding new interest with Project Independence. His wife, Diane, has been a Project Independence member for several years and counts the PI newsletter as one of her favorite aspects of the aging-in-place initiative.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bosworth and the Project Independence staff came up with new ideas to help continue programming, while ensuring the safety of residents.
The hours for the transportation for medical and food shopping trips were expanded. The Town also has paid for all costs associated with Project Independence transportation rides, including all fees for drivers. This will continue until the end of 2020.
In April, the town began offering at-home exercise classes for seniors in an effort to help senior residents stay fit and active at home. Offerings include yoga, fitness, dance and Tai Chi classes which currently air on weekdays at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The Project Independence Social Work and Nurse team continues to work very hard at keeping connected to members. Project Independence Social Workers and Nurses have been figuring out creative solutions to help ease seniors’ fears of isolation, and are continuing to provide vital services and support. Services include mental health assistance, food delivery, home assistance referrals, caregiver and bereavement counseling, medication management, social connection and more.
The “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” program was created to provide telephone reassurance by pairing up volunteers from the community with a Project Independence member. Participants receive a friendly phone call from a volunteer offering companionship and support. There have been approximately 50 matches and connections made.
“Project Independence has been helpful during the pandemic by helping me feel less isolated and giving me things to look forward to such as the social group, advisory board meetings and other Zoom programs,” Project Independence member Zandra Greene said. “It is good to know that Project Independence staff are available if I need them and they make me feel like I’m not alone.”
The Project Independence and You radio show recently celebrated its 9th anniversary. The show which airs on Friday from 10 a.m. has transitioned to be held remotely. The guest and hosts conduct the show from across North Hempstead and the content is broadcasted on the radio, on the WCWP app and aired on North Hempstead TV.
Project Independence was created in 2009 as an aging-in-place program for the Town’s nearly 60,000 residents over 60. To date, it has answered over 263,000 service requests and taken over 320,000 requests for rides to food shopping and medical trips. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 238 new members have signed up to be a part of Project Independence.
—Submitted by the Town of North Hempstead