Chattanooga’s Camp House hosted the first of a series of five open house events to take place in every major city in Tennessee and bring together leaders of faith-based and religious organizations and advocates for aging adults.
The events are organized by engAGING Communities Tennessee, an initiative to empower faith-based and religious congregations to provide older people and their caregivers with health and wellness programs and support. The initiative’s main focus is on issues surrounding Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias and is led by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Nursing.
At Tuesday’s kickoff event, a steady stream of visitors talked with representatives of provider and advocacy organizations ranging from the Alzheimer’s Association Tennessee chapter to the state Department of Health, gathered to reach “trusted messengers” uniquely positioned to connect resources with those in need but unaware of all resources.
“More than 75% of Tennesseans identify themselves as being part of a faith-based community, and more than 75% also say religion is an important part of their lives, making faith-based organizations an important, trusted source of information,” Kristi Wick noted in a presentation before a gathering of about 50.
Wick, Vicki B. Gregg Chair of Gerontology and assistant professor in the UTC School of Nursing, also said the experience in many communities of faith-based organizations coordinating and delivering disaster relief has further established a familiar and trusted outreach role.
engAGING Communities Tennessee is part of the Intrastate Network to Deliver Equity and Eliminate Disparities, known by the acronym INDEED, a grant-funded effort to address COVID-19 health disparities among high-risk and underserved populations. Wick is primary investigator on INDEED grant.
In addition to the Alzheimer’s Association Tennessee Chapter and Tennessee Department of Health, other engAGING Communities partners are Honoring Choices Tennessee, CIT Connect, Heart Tones, Alter Dementia and Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services.
Wick said the open house series is a starting point for a longer-term effort of informing volunteers and caregivers of resources.
“This is a first step in making introductions to connect with faith-based and religious organizations throughout the state and introduce them to our initiative, as well as our partner organizations,” she said. “We are doing a lot of listening to learn how we may best work within each unique community.”
Next steps, arising from information shared at the open house events, are organizing workshops for faith-based organizations to present an overview of services available to their communities; then subsequent workshops to “deep dive” into opportunities to address particular needs.
INDEED aims to strengthen faith organizations’ capacities to support aging people in their congregations impacted by the pandemic, chronic illness, dementia-related conditions and social determinants of health.
Next in the statewide series of community outreach open house events are:
- Aug. 23, Kingsport
- Aug. 24, Knoxville
- Aug. 30, Nashville
- Sept. 27, Memphis
Registration is not required for attending, but registering helps organizers better anticipate resources needed for guests. Register here.
About engAGING Communities Tennessee
engAGING Communities Tennessee is an initiative led by the UTC School of Nursing in affiliation with other partners across the state. The initiative focuses on bringing hope to aging populations and their caregivers through education and support.