The United Way of Kingsport's Aging with Choices Vision Council has worked for three years to identify needs and put together this new resource for seniors.
United Way of Greater Kingsport and the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability (AAAD) have unveiled a project designed to make it easier for senior citizens to find services and information in the Kingsport area.
The site, SeniorConnectKpt.org, was put together in a collaborative effort that also involved the Kingsport Times News Digital Group, AARP and the City of Kingsport.
"We’d identified the biggest need in the community [for seniors] as better information resources where people can find what they need and get the help they need," said Jerry Lukach, project manager for the site at United Way’s Aging with Choices Vision Council.
"Once that was determined, it was a process of saying, ‘How can we do that, how can we make that happen, who can we collaborate with and how can we get the community support for that.’"
The site breaks down information, according to topic, covering six main categories: information services, housing and long-term care, quality of life, health and wellness, basic needs, and safe living. Under these headings, information is available in about 50 sub-categories.
It includes links to information on things like area senior centers, lifelong learning opportunities and community events, as well as information on choosing senior living and health care services.
Website Coordinator Kathleen McLaughlin said she’s going to work continually to keep it updated – and she hopes to hear ongoing feedback from people who use the site and those in the community who might have more information to add.
"I hope when we look at the website six months or a year down the road, the number of providers in the database is a lot higher than it is today," McLaughlin said. "We try to make it as easy as possible for them to send information to us."
McLaughlin, who works for AAAD, said information can be sent through contact forms on the site.
The creation of SeniorConnectKpt.org developed out of a United Way initiative to link community groups to tackle root-cause needs. The idea was forged by the Aging with Choices Vision Council, one of four vision councils set up to find out where gaps in services exist in the community.
For seniors, the biggest gap was in information.
United Way’s other three vision councils focus on children, self-sufficiency, and safety and stability. Their planned initiatives this year will address early-grade reading, life coaching, and affordable adult dental care.
SeniorConnectKpt.org has been developed over three years of work by the Aging with Choices Vision Council, which began the process with surveys and community forums to identify needs.
"This was the top one that came out: seniors need access to information," said Jim Williams, who chairs the council. "They need a resource where they can go and get information, sort of a one-stop shop, and so our intention was to develop a web portal that would be easy to use, be a simple place where people could go and find help, it would be comprehensive."
Lukach said he’s excited that the site is now up and running and looking forward to its positive impact on the community. And while it’s limited in scope to the greater Kingsport area, he’s hopeful it will spur similar efforts in other parts of the region. "We wanted to start with something that we could easily get our arms around and do," Lukach said.
"We were also worried that the bigger you get, it also makes it more complicated for the user. So we wanted to keep it to the size that people would feel comfortable and find the information they need."
It’s been designed in a way that can be easily replicated in other communities, Lukach said, though there’s also the possibility that it could be expanded to cover the rest of the Tri-Cities.
Kathy Whitaker, director of First TN AAAD, said the site is one more way to get the word out to seniors about available services. The agency also has a dedicated toll-free phone number for information: 1-866-836-6678.
Those who need to speak with someone directly may dial 2-1-1 to reach an individual at Contact Concern of Northeast TN.
"I think it’s important that we provide information to the community in a variety of ways," Whitaker said. "Not all older individuals are going to have a computer, but maybe their son or daughter might."