ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- The city of St. Cloud Aging Services will use part of a $9.5-million grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to address mental health challenges in our senior citizen populations.

Aging Services will receive $432,000 through one of 45 Live Well at Home grants.

Tracy Larsen is the Wellness Coordinator at the Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud. She says one of their objectives when writing the grant was to help fight social isolation...

We're offering a lot of information that's helpful, but most of the workshops are conducted in a group setting and so people are not only learning information to improve their health, but they're also connecting with other members of the group. And that, oftentimes is even more important...just feeling like they belong.

Larsen says the grant will also help fund community health workers who will serve on the front lines to help older people live and age in the communities of their choice.

She adds that it's important that we not only focus on physical wellbeing, but also a person's mental wellbeing...

It's not only a physical, health, or a wellness issue but it's a social isolation/loneliness issue. (We are) Working on avoiding or decreasing depression (while) increasing their self-esteem and hopefulness.

One of the efforts through this grant is a pilot program that places a voice-operated care companion in the home, much like the Alexa device...

It is similar to that. And the goal behind that, again, is following this initiative to end social isolation. It would be a device that is in an older person's home, you know, somebody who doesn't feel threatened by technology. But, you could set up a medication reminder or ask it to tell you a story.

It's called ElliQ and it can also have conversations, tell jokes, provide cognitive games, assess general health, message loved ones, and more.

Meanwhile, Helping Hands Outreach in Holdingford is receiving $50,000 to recruit and train volunteers in an effort to expand their capacity to reach a growing senior population and help them live independently and stay in their community.




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