JON KAIMAN DEMOCRAT FOR TOWN SUPERVISORAging in Place – Project IndependenceSeptember 06, 2023

As we age, we increasingly face physical, emotional and social challenges. After years of investing in one’s community through work, family and taxes it is incumbent upon local government to invest in our senior citizens as the aging process creates new challenges in navigating the world we live in.

In 2006, I created Project Independence which quickly became a go-to program for our senior citizens and their families looking for support services that made it easier to “age in place.” We partnered with taxi companies, medical professionals, social workers and home handyman programs to provide the support services that help those who could benefit from assistance in various ways.

Prior to creating Project Independence I deployed a 311 call center and data analytics ¬-technology system to North Hempstead. Any resident could simply dial 311 and get a fully informed, professional town agent who could address any issue, concern, problem or idea that the caller raised.

When I created the Project Independence program, I combined it with our 311 call system so that any senior citizen could dial 311 and be immediately connected to Project Independence staff which included social workers, visiting nurses and government support staff. When I added the transportation programs that offered free taxi rides to local supermarkets and also discounted taxi rides to doctors offices, we utilized the 311 system as a dispatch center to arrange for the requested taxi rides in partnership with our local taxi companies throughout the town.

By 2010, we were handling more than 15,000 Project Independence calls a year. By that time we had added a visiting nurse program and a social worker program where we would connect seniors to medical personnel and to mental health professionals by phone or in person to address emotional and other mental health issues. We also provided services from a handyman program where representatives from a not-for-profit handyman agency trained people with disabilities who had handyman type skills and could fix various home needs under the supervision of agency personnel.

We also created a neighbor to neighbor program where families of senior citizens could call a designated neighbor to check in on their aging parent or relative if they were having difficulty contacting them. Of note was the grandparenting program we established in conjunction with a social service agency to assist grandparents who for one reason or another became the primary caregiver of a young child.

North Hempstead’s Project Independence program was recognized as a nationally leading seniors program that would receive support and recognition from the United States Congress, New York State, AARP, and CNN/Money Magazine when it designated North Hempstead as one of the best places to live in America for senior citizens.

Since its inception, the program has attracted tens of thousands of active participants and hundreds of thousands of service requests. The program utilizes local steering committees in communities throughout the town organized by local senior citizens and town employees. Together, they prepare and distribute a newsletter and work towards continuous improvement of the program.

As Town Supervisor, I will continue to invest in and develop Project Independence.