The Community of Vermont Elders is a group of organizations, individual senior citizens and young people that has existed since 1981. COVE’s mission to promote a higher quality of life for the state’s seniors is advanced through advocacy and education. It works with and for elder Vermonters and the organizations that serve them to identify, interpret and respond to critical issues that impact the dignity, security and wellbeing of seniors. COVE is a well-respected advocacy and educational organization that has represented the senior population ofVermont. Our membership has grown to consist of 40 organizations, most of which provide direct service to elders and other populations needing long term or home and community-based care
Other member organizations have typically been fellow advocates, educators or employers who may serve a larger constituency than the elderly. Through these members we have been able to remain informed of issues which relate to the elderly. We also have a number of individual members and a substantial group of volunteers who keep us connected to the grassroots needs ofVermontelders.
Our mission continues to focus upon advocacy and education. We have educated legislators and the public about the needs of elders. Additionally, we inform elders about how to empower themselves to achieve their needs. Much of our legislative success has been our ability to engage seniors to testify on their own behalf about issues that seriously affect their well-being. Legislators know that we speak for the direct recipients of program benefits and that we can readily produce real examples of problems with current systems. COVE’s strength is that we can engage those directly impacted by an issue and help them to express their concerns.
In 2002, COVE was the principle administrator of an Administration on Aging grant to the Department of Disability, Aging and Independent Living that was directed at providing educational outreach about elder mental health issues to seniors, their families, their communities and professionals who serve them. Within one year’s time we presented over 50 public awareness presentations and a number of professional trainings across the state. We worked closely with AHEC to reach paraprofessional workers across the state. Many of those attending our workshops were direct care workers. Because of our contact through this program we established credibility with that population and a reputation for providing valuable educational opportunities. And, this work continued!
COVE has always been in the forefront of creating systemic change to provide consumers with informed choice and control over their lives. In 2003, COVE was awarded the “Real Choices, Professional Caregivers Association” grant, which addressed the needs of long-term care workers, including wages, benefits, low job satisfaction, low retention and the general lack of respect which has typically been intrinsic to that workforce. The project continued its funding through Atlantic Philanthropies and developed the “VT Association of Professional Care Providers” organization, completing its work in 2010.
In 2003, COVE also received funding from the U. S. Administration on Aging to form a Vermont Senior Medicare Patrol which enabled us to reach Vermonters with preventive education and resources to ward off incidences of Medicare error, fraud and abuse. This program continues to be housed at COVE and has grown to have several popular training programs for individuals and organizations. Vermont Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) reaches thousands of Vermonters yearly through small presentations, media releases and television programs. Vermont SMP recently received an award which enabled its volunteer program, Savvy Seniors, to begin working with groups outside of Vermont to train them to utilize this very effective, theatrical education model.
With its dedication to choice and empowerment, emphasis on grassroots advocacy and belief in self-determination, COVE was also awarded the “Training to Stop Abuse and Sexual Assault of Older Individuals or Individuals with Disabilities” grant. The efforts of that project helped to improveVermont’s response to violence against elders and persons with disabilities by training police, prosecutors, judges, home health care and social service providers, domestic violence and sexual assault program staff, and others about those issues.
In 2011, COVE took over administration of the Reach Service Exchange Network, a Central Vermont time bank pilot focused on helping seniors and people with disabilities to continue to live independently in their homes and stay connected with their local community through both giving and receiving services. At the end of the grant period, Reach was merged into Onion River Exchange (ORE), a pre-existing time bank inCentral Vermont. Grants written under COVE’s auspices will help keep the project funded asOREbegins serious grant-writing and fundraising on its own. COVE will continue to seek grants for time bank projects of benefit to elders, contracting with ORE/Reach and other time banks inVermontto carry out the work.
Another new partnership in 2011 was a collaboration with the kinship caregiving networks to help spread the word about grandparents raising their grandchildren when the parents cannot. A flier produced with a grant from Wider Opportunities for Women describes what kinship caregiving is and provides information on where people can to go for help when they find themselves in this situation.
COVE has become a unique advocacy and educational organization. We have collaborated with other professionals throughout the state ofVermontand continue to have a strong and growing impact on the quality of life for seniors.