Central Florida is one of the most vibrant regions of Florida. It is also home to the Senior Resource Alliance, an Area Agency on Aging for hundreds of thousands of seniors.
Karla Radka, the President and CEO of Region 7 for the Area Agency on Aging (AAA), joins the Great American Senior Show host Sam Yates to discuss what makes this regional AAA so unique. From the one-of-a-kind resources offered by AmeriCorps Volunteers to the use of new technology, including the Great American Senior Show Podcast, this organization goes above and beyond the norm to service those in need.
We also learn about the amazing background of the Senior Resource Alliance leader and the experiences that have placed Karla in the right place at the right time to make a difference in the lives of those most needing assistance.
The Great American Senior Show Podcast is streaming 24/7 and 365 days a year to provide the information and knowledgeable guests who can and do make a difference in how information is gathered and put to the best use.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of The Great American Senior Show. I'm Sam Yates, your gray hair and host and today I am in Orlando. I'm here with Karla Radka. Karla is the president and CEO of the Area Agency on Aging for this region. Welcome to the program.Karla Radka:
Thank you so much, Sam, for inviting me to participate in this amazing show. And for the opportunity to be able to reach out to our audience in the state of Florida.Sam Yates:
One of the things that I always enjoy doing is letting our audience know about our guests. Tell us about yourself.Karla Radka:
Well, my name is Karla Radka. And I have been a resident for Central Florida for about 30 years. So I love our community. And I love our seniors and the opportunity to lead the efforts for our organization, and to partner with so many wonderful organizations in Central Florida, to serve seniors to serve caregivers and our community in general.Sam Yates:
Now, your background, though you have a lot of experience, not just here with this organization, but regionally, nationally and international. Tell us about that.Karla Radka:
Oh, thank you so much. It seems that you probably read my profile. And I appreciate that. Thank you. Yes, my experience has been mostly in service organizations around the world. My international work has taken me to different continents, and is all in service of others, like doing work in Singapore for single mothers or in Latin America, in Central America, specifically with water wells, and providing medical resources for the residents of Honduras, Central America, and in other opportunities in Mexico and in Canada, actually. So thank you for for that opportunity to share that part of my history. And when it comes to Central Florida, my work experience includes the opportunity to help people with self sufficiency through Goodwill Industries to CareerSource, Central Florida, and through an American program, training young, talented individuals for years of services in the community.Sam Yates:
And we're gonna go into many of the programs that are part of the organization here now. And you may have touched briefly on some of your top priorities. But what would the top priorities be for you, if we had to say this, this, this and this,Karla Radka:
I think in Central Florida, we know that providing nutritional meals, for seniors that are vulnerable in our community is very important. So a lot of our efforts through our providers to ensure that we serve seniors that are in great need of that and we know how important nutrition is to as a building block for healthy living and to have a strong immune systems in terms of the pandemic that we're facing. So another area that is very important for us is the mental health area, because of isolation and anxiety and depression, living under this current times, to be able to extend that well being and wellness to seniors and caregivers in our community is important to many of our programs, such wellness workshops, or telephone reassurance connecting at the most human level. And in areas that are important for wellbeing are some of our priorities. I think another priority is our caregivers. They are essential for aging in place and to support our seniors and the economic impact of the caregivers, the healthy and natural ways that they can provide services for seniors at home so they can age in place is fundamental. So serving servicing our caregivers is important with resources with respite care, is one of our key opportunities for that. And I think I will say that another is leveraging technology, it has become so important to be able to reach out to our audiences, and to our seniors or caregivers and our community through virtual ways. And leveraging technology is very important. And we love when our seniors are able to join us either by audio or virtual environment. So that's another thing that we have done.Sam Yates:
And that's one of the things that has prompted me to be doing the great American senior podcast. We know that during the pandemic, I followed many, many groups online and because that was sort of what you did, but isolate kills was one of the groups and I was constantly amazed at the tips and tidbits that went into making sure that we cared for those who were in isolation and needed help. Another thing is the aging in place with aging in place. We know that seniors today are cognizant, they read the newspapers when newspapers are available, they're online, they have their cell phones, our seniors are more capable of knowing what technology has to offer. So they're aware that during the pandemic, during the ongoing COVID, those that were in congregate facilities did not fare as well so that aging in place has become something critically important. Even the health providers from the hospitals on down are saying, wait a minute, we would much rather be caring for that person and providing them services in their home. So I think those are excellent, excellent priorities for what you're what you're doing. What are some of the challenges Oh, let me back up one step. And the companies here are interesting counties, and I just want to set the stage orange Seminole Brevard Osceola. Now, that's a relatively small number of counties and lead agencies within those counties. And we'll get into lead agencies in a bit. But when I take a look at an area, there are a lot of people in these four counties. Some estimates say one point a 2.3 million just for Orange County alone. And the percentages of seniors also are very large numbers, even though the percentage might be lower in Orange County, for example, or Seminole and Osceola down into the 12 to 14%. As far as 65 and older. That's a lot of people. And then we get over into Brevard County, it's up into 30 40%, depending on who you ask. So Carla has a lot of people that need her services. Earlier I mentioned the counties and the percentages, but ballpark figure how many seniors and others are cared for or have services under the umbrella of your AAA.Karla Radka:
We know that on the annual basis through our elder helpline and services that we provide directly to our seniors, we serve about 100,000 seniors that we know that are at the most vulnerable level, then we serve in a more general basis, our community in general, especially through our elder helpline, and caregivers, and loved ones and professionals reaching out for additional information of referrals in our organization. We also have a very complex system to be able to reach out using technology. And our audience based on impressions has reached out millions, through our social media, through our articles in newspapers, and online are the articles and through our website. So we know that these have been through millions, 3 million 4,000,005 10 million. And some of our articles have made it to national media too. And ISam Yates:
think that's important. A lot of folks, when they think seniors, they are thinking, well, that's just Uncle Joe or grandpa bill over in the nursing home that is impacted by something happening. Realistically, we are a community that may have a senior citizen, cared for by children cared for by other caregivers. It's a very large community, the seniors are only counted once, perhaps but the rest of the residual community is huge. So when you're helping one, you're really helping many times that number of persons in your account of people there. But what are some of the hurdles that you're facing?Karla Radka:
Something that I would like to mention based on your last statement is that we see the community as an ecosystem where we are all connected. So when we're serving a senior, we are also serving that caregiver, those family members, including the youngest family members, we have some programs that are devoted just for grandparents raising grandchildren. And we know that there is a very powerful relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. And later on, I would like to talk more about that, where you will say there's probably some of the biggest challenges and what we will call biggest opportunities in our in our central Florida market. I will say that one it will have been the use of technology for some of our seniors. So knowing that that was going to give us an opportunity we have engaged with students from local universities and we have an American program, the only one in the state of Florida that is devoted to seniors. And what we have done with those amazing volunteers that are part of our, our system of care in our network at senior resource alliance is allocate those resources in our AmeriCorps volunteers to be able to help seniors with technology challenges. And one quick example is when the US government made available test kits for COVID 19. We had an American volunteers reaching out to seniors and walking them through the website or register them directly into the website so they can access this mask and the COVID test, that it could go directly into their homes.Sam Yates:
That is awesome. And I think that's an unused resource that a lot of professional organizations, not for profit or otherwise failed to realize AmeriCorps is there as that resource. So kudos to you for recognizing that and being the only one in the state that that's able to do that it. It's a wonderful, wonderful organization. Each region is also unique in the number of volunteers. And speaking of AmeriCorps, what is your volunteer situation like?Karla Radka:
We have volunteers at different capacities. I will say that probably one of the most significant army of volunteers that we have, is actually the volunteers for our SHINE program. And SHINE program is one of my favorite resources that we can offer through our organization. Shine volunteers are unbias advisors of health care plans that provide this universal unbiased information for seniors and caregivers and the selection of healthcare plans for Medicare and, and that is so important because each senior have their own unique set of circumstances. And having all that information or all that knowledge to make informed decision is key. So we have so much appreciation. And we love so much our volunteers that come through shine, because the investment of time to educate themselves. And the investment of time, educating seniors and caregivers is is something that we appreciate very much. And it's a mission of love. So kudos to all of our shine volunteers in all our four county area and throughout the whole state of Florida.Sam Yates:
Now I'm going to give an explanation of shine I have had shine in so many counties and been familiar with it. It's serving health insurance needs for elders. And when you say they are an on bias, that's exactly what they do. They look at it with an open sheet of paper and say what is your need? How can we help? Where can we make the parts fit together. So it's an amazing program, indeed. So that program is is statewide, your participation level in shine here in your region is exceptional.Karla Radka:
Thank you so much. We're very, very proud of our volunteers and our internal team members that manage that program. And we encourage anyone who really wants to invest their time educating themselves and becoming volunteers for that program. We welcome we welcome those volunteers. And we have the resources and the tools to be able to equip them so they can do amazing work out there.Sam Yates:
I always keep an eye on the time, because I try to keep these around 15 or 20 minutes because people are busy. They like to listen when they have an opportunity, whether it's in the car cooking breakfast in the morning or some of our seniors, what are the things that we have encouraged senior care facilities, whether it be independent or assisted or other facilities, much like they have a movie night, we're starting to encourage them to have that Old Time Radio night where they can gather in that same auditorium. And instead of seeing a movie, they pull up on the internet, some of the episodes of The Great American Senior Center, and that brings back a lot of memories for them. So with that setting the stage for memories, will you be able to come back and do another program with us?Karla Radka:
Definitely. Thank you so much for that invite. And I'm looking forward to another opportunity where you can invite me back into your program and into the homes of our community.Sam Yates:
And that's important and Karla Radka ladies and gentlemen, she is going to be back and she will be a special guest here on an upcoming episode of The Great American seniors show. We've literally have just barely scratched the surface of what we could talk about here in this particular region. If we were to take it down to a granular level at each of the counties and the communities and the volunteers and knows that we can help educate both seniors and influencers. We would be here all day. So we're not going to spend all day on it because I know everyone's got time on their hands and they need to do some things. But we're going to come back and do more in depth. Carla, my very heartfelt Special Thanks for you being on the program. I know that it has been a little bit of time that we've been talking about this and and traveling all over the state, you have been a priority because I know that you're doing such a wonderful job here in this audience and for our audience. You can listen to the great American seniors show free. It is available wherever you get your podcast. If you have Alexa at home, walk up to Alexa, put that smile on your face and say hey, Alexa, play me the latest episode of The Great American senior show. And you know what? You'll be hearing my dulcet tones come out of that little box and giving you advice and special guests. So Carla again, thank you forKarla Radka:
being here on our program. That is yes, some. My pleasure. Until our nextSam Yates:
program. I'm Sam Yates. You're a gray haired host of The Great American senior show. And that's how our program ends