by Gretchen Funk
Associate Executive Director, FiftyForward Supportive Care Services

Have you ever been part of a group of inspiring, passionate people who all want to make the world (or a family, neighborhood, community, city) better? Someone offers an idea and energy moves through the group as many people talk at once, excited at the chance to work together toward a shared goal. What might have felt difficult and overwhelming now feels exciting, and everyone is invigorated and hopeful. True partnerships hardly feel like work at all. They bring energy, enthusiasm, and purpose to our lives.

Partnerships are transformative on a personal level

Many families experience the joy of life with older adult family members but also the challenge of figuring out how to help them maintain their quality of life as they age.  In working with families as a geriatric care manager, I often help them to remember that their number one partner is the older adult. Families are not making decisions for their loved ones but with them. A partnership is not telling someone what must be done but rather engaging to learn what is most desired and then working together to accomplish those tasks as best we can. Partnerships involve dialogue and compromise with good intention. They don’t place all the burden on one person. I have seen family members visibly exhale with relief when they understand that everyone has a part to play in caregiving for the older adults they love. Grandma gets to communicate her wishes and be heard, one daughter steps up to bring her to medical appointments, a grandson helps with grocery shopping and cooking, her son brings her to church each week, and her out-of-town granddaughter pays her bills online. None of this is simple, but it is rewarding because everyone is working together with a shared purpose.

Partnerships are powerful on larger levels, also

How thrilling when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) chose FiftyForward as one of the first national community partners in the All of Us Research Program FiftyForward, the Asian Health Coalition, the Delta Research and Educational Foundation, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and Stanford University educate and engage communities historically underrepresented in biomedical research to advance precision medicine and health for all through All of Us.

Our expertise in aging services, our work with seniors, along with our extensive network of local partners in Middle Tennessee secured our selection as a national partner to educate and engage older adults.

As community partners, we learn from each other, share strategies and successes and seek to complement each other’s efforts. We don’t want to do what others already do well. We want to collaborate and add value to each other and recognize and highlight the strengths of the communities we represent.

Partners identify shared value and leverage combined strengths to achieve a level of impact that could not be accomplished independently.  Where there is a true desire to partner, partnerships will happen – decide how to partner and on what issues; determine what everyone brings to the partnership; communicate, communicate, communicate; build trust; be guided by your values and the needs of those you serve; be open, transparent and responsible to each other and to your shared values; and then get ready to be invigorated by the amazing energy a great partnership brings.

At FiftyForward, we are thrilled to partner with older adults, families, caregivers, students, neighbors, volunteers, local, state and the federal government, with amazing fellow nonprofits, with schools of all kinds, with faith communities and civic groups, with foundations and corporations and businesses to advance our mission to support, champion and enhance life for those 50 and over.

Partner with us, send us an email at info@fiftyforward.org – your life will be fuller and richer for it!