During his campaign visits across the 47th Ward, Alderman Ameya Pawar met many older adults and heard their wishes and concerns. He knew that older adults are and will continue to be a crucial and vibrant part of the community.
Prior to his inauguration in 2011, Alderman Pawar brought together a transition team of community leaders as a Senior and Social Services Work Group. This group focused on compiling information about the social service resources and providers across the 47th Ward.
The alderman was impressed by the breadth and scope of services for older adults — but the question remained: How do we support older adults who wish to age in place and remain a vibrant and active component of our community?
Recognizing that a community’s assets come from the wisdom of its members, Alderman Pawar put out a call to action in October 2011 for the creation of the 47th Ward Senior Council.
The Senior Council was charged with determining how to:
- Engage and involve residents in the 47th Ward in all types of activities.
- Celebrate the contributions of older adults through quarterly luncheons and events such as Wellness Fairs.
- Provide a community resource for residents to find out what’s happening in their community — from art classes to farmer’s markets and walking groups.
- Involve volunteers from across the Ward by offering opportunities to serve in activities that are meaningful to them.
- Create a trusted place where community members could turn to for support and resources as they age, including getting help from a volunteer when needed.
Previous activities for older persons in the community focused mainly on luncheons. The Senior Council recognized a need for more comprehensive, inclusive and empowered support for younger and older adults as they age in the community.
Across the nation, different types of support for people as they age are being built, and villages modeled after Beacon Hill are rapidly gaining traction. This approach is typically expensive, with membership fees ranging from $700 to more than $1,500 annually, and results in yet another non-profit organization in the community. The costs could be prohibitive for 47th Ward residents, and the services replicate what is already offered by other organizations.
The Council recognized that the 47th Ward has a wealth of resources and opportunities for community members, from the Old Town School of Music and the Levy Senior Center, to exercise classes at Welles Park and art classes at the LillStreet Art Center. The missing piece was connecting older adults to the opportunities that exist — by providing a link to needed resources, local businesses, and activities to meet other community members.
Forward Chicago became the that missing piece: the place to turn to for local happenings and community connections for older adults.