Q&A with Susan Streeter

Executive director of Copper City Community Community Connection of Rome discusses role it plays in the lives of local seniors

By David L. Podos

Q: What are the main programs and services you offer and whom do you offer them to?

A: We serve the 50+ generation. We started off as a senior center but have grown to include a wellness program where we have a very specific workout regime geared for older participants. Also, [as] part of the wellness program, we offer a medical topic for discussion once a month here at the center. We cover a wide range of subjects from stroke prevention to proper nutrition. Local professionals in health and medicine lead the discussion offering their expertise, so whoever attends, they are getting factual and up to date information.

Another very important and major program we offer is a social model adult day program. It is a program designed for those individuals who may have some memory loss as well as for those who may be experiencing Alzheimer’s and or dementia. It is not a medical model but rather a social model, so, we do not offer nursing care nor can we dispense medication.

In 2019 we started a new program called healthy ideas, which is an evidence-based program. Our staff is trained to recognize symptoms of depression. So, if a person is determined that they are suffering from depression we can act as an advocate getting them professional help as well as assisting them in creating a social plan so they can re-engage back in their community.

Q: What is your geographical reach? Is it just in the greater Rome area?

A: The majority of our paying members are from the Rome area. However, we reach as far east to the town of Ilion and as far north to the town of Boonville.

Q: If this facility did not exist and these programs were not available to the 50-plus population that you serve, what do you think would happen to these people?

A: There has been a lot of research done on the importance of senior centers and that the social determinates of health has an overall impact on a person’s well-being. So, it is extremely important for people to be engaged with their peers in social activities. For many seniors they have no other place to socialize, isolation can cause many kinds of mental health problems. So our services are crucial to keeping our members as healthy as possible. Not only is this important for health both mental and physical but further research shows substantial medical cost savings by preventing major health issues.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge as an executive director over the past two to three years?

A: Clearly it has been the pandemic. When I was hired back in 2016, the senior center was struggling financially. In 2018 I felt like the agency had turned the corner so to speak, then the bottom fell out literally when COVID-19 hit. Of course, seniors were very cautious when the pandemic hit so we as an agency were watching very closely how many members were coming back and how many were not. Before the pandemic we had more than 400 members, once it hit, we were closer to around 300, so we had lost about 100 members. We are now recovering from those losses and membership is once again growing.

Q: How many staff do you have? 

A: We have four full-time staff and four part-time staff as well as around 50 volunteers.

Q: Where do you receive your funding from?

A: We have a combination of funding streams. From fundraising, to the city of Rome supporting us, as well as the Office for Aging. We also have contracts with several long-term care insurance companies for our adult day care which is a fee-for-service program.

Q: What do you see as an executive director where this agency will be in the next two to three years?

A: I see a very active and vibrant senior center back to full operation. I would like to see more people in the community and insurance providers as well as case managers recognize the value of our social adult day care model and not be quick to assume that someone has to go to a medical model. If we can be seen as part of that continuum of care that someone would benefit from our programs and services, it would be very important for people.

For more information about the center go to: www.coppercitycommunityconnection.com or call: 315-868-7344