Looking closely at aging issues Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011 -- 12:00 AM
Catholic Charities' Aging Services
Catholic Charities of Madison offers a number of aging services:
• Caregiver Practical Skills Training: One day classes as well as shorter workshops are held that focus on a specific area of caregiving. Topics covered in the training include moving, lifting and transferring techniques, incontinence issues, and infection control.
• CompanionCare: Established in 1999, this program promotes self-reliance of older persons and encourages continued engagement in community life. Mature, responsible Companions are screened, trained, and supervised by Catholic Charities staff and provide a variety of services that often determine whether an older person can remain living in the community.
• Elder Mentor: The Elder Mentor program, established in 1990, provides friendship and support to older individuals living in Dane County. Volunteers in this program meet needs that other senior service providers are not able to address. Catholic Charities staff matches the client with a volunteer who is committed to helping elders.
• Respite Care Team Ministry: Respite Care Team Ministry is a ministry of area congregations with consultation, training, and on-going support provided by Catholic Charities and Oakwood Village. The Respite Care Team Ministry compassionately serves intergenerational families throughout the area and is active in congregations of all denominations. There is no charge to the individual or family for the support and assistance provided by the team. All team contacts are confidential.
Catholic Charities of Madison has further information about these and other programs, as well as an age-friendly The Age Page at their Web site. Visit
for more.

MADISON --In the next two decades, the proportion of Americans over 65 years of age is projected to increase to nearly 20 percent of the population — more than seven percent greater than the proportion in the year 2000. This difference represents an estimated increase of 36 million people: the population over 65 in 2030 could be around 71 million.With so many people above the age we generally think of as “retirement age,” it’s no wonder that aging — and all of the personal and social concerns that come with it — is becoming a topic of increasing interest.

Catholic Charities of Madison recently hosted a conference on issues relating to aging to help bring about more awareness of these issues. The September 22 event at the Bishop O’Connor Center featured keynote talks from Tracy Schroepfer of the University of Wisconsin’s School of Social Work, as well as nationally known public radio show host Dr. Zorba Paster. Breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon covered a wide variety of aging-related concerns, including memory issues, grief and loss, fall prevention, and preventing adverse medication interactions.

More than 80 people attended this first-ever event held by the local organization, the charitable arm of the Diocese of Madison. Organizers said that the attendees included a broad mix of professionals, caregivers, parish pastoral care providers and parish nurses, and seniors. The topics covered addressed aspects of aging that applied to everyone.

A common concern

“Aging is something we’re all going through,” said Bill Hamilton, director of Aging Services for Catholic Charities of Madison.

With demographics showing an increase in the higher age groups, especially now as baby boomers retire, there’s more demand for the resources, he said. “People are really looking for ideas. They’re looking to maintain a quality of living. The more we have sessions like this, the more people will know how they can do that.”

Catholic Charities offers a number of services for aging (see sidebar at the right), but part of the difficulty is making people aware of those resources. “You have to get the word out,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes, we assume everyone knows about us, but nine times out of 10 people won’t know where to go for services.”

Different issues for everyone

With this conference, Catholic Charities hopes to help bring about a greater awareness of aging needs and issues. The morning keynote session with Schroepfer, for instance, addressed “The Psychosocial Well-Being of Elders.” From person-centered care to understanding how to both assist and empower those who need help in aging, the issues Schroepfer outlined highlighted the importance of communication.

In the afternoon session, Dr. Paster talked about a variety of health-related topics, even those that we don’t always bring up in polite company. Talking and learning about these issues, though, can lead to better decision-making, Dr. Paster said.

“If you talk about it, you can make the right choices,” he said.

People often get embarrassed by discussions of the “taboo” topics like AIDs, cancer, and death, Dr. Paster said, “but you have to get rid of the embarrassment — it’s important to get that out in the open.”

This is especially important because everyone has different needs to address.

“One of the things (Tracy Schroepfer) brought out was we’re all very different,” Hamilton said. “We have over 80 people here, and everyone has their own idea of what independence means.

“As the body ages, it doesn’t mean the spirit does. Someone might need a little bit of assistance to maintain independence, and someone else might need more, but it’s the quality of self-worth we have to recognize, and I think that really fits in with Catholic Social Teaching,” he said.

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