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Modern day elderhood councils: A community-based intervention

Ababio M, Parrish M, Habi D, Tahirah I
Presentations from 2022 SIREN National Research Meeting: Racial Health Equity in Social Care


 Modern day elderhood councils: A community-based intervention [PDF]

Speakers: Marilyn Ababio (Comfort Homesake), Monique Parrish (LifeCourse Strategies), Dedoceo Habi (Author, community health advocate, and veteran), Iya Tahirah (Guiding elder)

This presentation unearthed the role of elders in the African American community as a modern construct. Presenters collected culturally relevant data and evaluate the organizational structure of existing elder council models in five US Cities. The goal is to identify a modern day construct for elder councils as a focal point for bridging the gap between outpatient follow-up/case management services and community based health and social needs. They offered a series of presenters each with a chapter in Comfort Homesake’s story of building a community based presence to implement whole person care as a building block of community empowerment. The presentation began with ritual led by our guiding elder, Iya Tahirah who will elaborate on our working definition of elderhood: "Means to have lived life in a way that brings forth a guidepost or navigation for those who come behind us. That means not passing on pain and suffering but recalibrating experiences in such a way that others can transmute and heal." Dr. Parrish described how health systems attempt to overcome health equity issues. She highlighted the concept of whole person care in view of health systems’ efforts and the barriers to delivering much needed community resources to aide patients and their caregivers. She also discussed the potential for community-based organizations to embrace whole person care as a remedy for their health and social needs. Third presenter, Mr. Dedoceo Habi discussed modern day conceptual elements of elder councils and their evolution over time from the council’s traditional indigenous role to its current function. Mr. Habi identified a plethora of research avenues as we reimagine communities where growth and development is guided by connection to and wisdom of our elders; communities where we don’t discard knowledge and lives lived but instead embrace what has come before as a path towards better lives to come. Marilyn Ababio discussed the elements of the innovation between the health care services agency and the social services agency to demonstrate the nexus that institutionalized the Alameda County Care Partners program. She then described Comfort Homesake’s investment of over 15 years building capacity to deliver culturally relevant service to seniors; low income populations; the formerly incarcerated; people with mental health diagnosis, and other citizens who are managing a chronic disease, with a serious illness, or facing end-of-life. Her final focus was a request for funding a research pilot featuring one elder council to identify how health care systems can work together with community based organizations to bring together health resources that address the social determinates of health. There are gaps in health care services delivery systems that relate to the value proposition for people of color. The overarching question she wishes to study is how would a health council that embodies community beliefs, thoughts and intentions affect trust in the health system of care. The research opportunities open to discovery are: 

  • How do elder councils identify elders to serve and what education/training is needed to support health care decision making?
  • What is the elder council’s hearing and deliberation methodology? How do we measure community acceptance of elder council decisions?
  • How can we measure the value to the community of an elder council’s exsistence? • How do elder councils bring resources and power into the community?
  • What considerations will elder council decisionmakers evaluate with regard to interacting with health systems and providers interested in gaining access to community members? For example: COVID pandemic and emergency preparedness.

Learning Objectives

  1. Participant will understand the difference between aged and elderhood
  2. Participant will describe the prinicples that guide whole person care
  3. Participant will understand the historical significance of elder councils in the African American community
  4. Participants will describe the elements of capacity building
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