Stay Well and Spend Your Golden Years in Durham

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Retirees are attracted to this area for its cost of living, world-class medical care, cultural events and opportunities for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many are attracted to the rich diversity of Durham as well as the easy access to Duke hospitals and cultural outlets like Durham Performing Arts Center and The Carolina Theatre. In fact, North Carolina gained the third-most retirees of any state according to a recent study by SmartAsset.

Senior PharmAssist masks
Gina Upchurch collects mask donations to deliver to seniors.

A lot of the draw has to do with the unique services offered here. Senior PharmAssist, for example, “helps older adults with limited incomes thrive in Durham,” says Executive Director Gina Upchurch. “Most have been in Durham for years.”

The nonprofit maintains and manages much-needed medications in addition to providing health education and Medicare counseling. This service, especially, is popular among their clients. This counseling includes face time with clinical pharmacists, ensuring people save the most money possible on prescriptions, while also ensuring that the medicines do more good than harm.

“We focus on what we can do together to make life better for older adults who struggle to make ends meet,” Gina says.

Senior PharmAssist also facilitates a team responding to COVID-19 and aims to grow the number of community health workers as part of Durham’s Partnership for Seniors, which advocates for older adult issues, promotes and facilitates partnerships, and identifies opportunities that may improve the quality of life for Durham seniors. They maintain an up-to-date central database of community resources and best practices in order to provide reassurance calls for older adults and match volunteers with organizations that need them most during this time. While COVID-19 affected retirement communities in ways Gian couldn’t have imagined, she says, “it has driven deeper collaboration and more activity in the community.”

Senior PharmAssist recently received a donation of 1,300 masks to cover its participants who are most at risk of complications from the virus.

“We are so thankful to be a conduit and connector of goodwill in the Bull City,” Gina says, as they worked with The Forest at Duke to package and deliver the masks to seniors’ homes along with personal letters and health tips.

For those seniors looking to further their education, there’s the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Duke – the fourth largest OLLI in the country and one of the oldest, as it celebrates its 43rd anniversary this year. With 2,600 members and more than 300 instructors, the learning community offers more than 425 classes annually at more than 20 locations across Durham, Orange and Chatham counties.

“We have men and women who moved here knowing no one, because they know they can make friends and build a community with people who share their values and love of learning,” says OLLI Director Chris McLeod.

Durham is a magnet for professionals who may have relocated here for work, are parents of children who went to college in the area or who loved living in a big city.

“Durham has the perks of a big city without many of the big city hassles,” Chris says.

The participants at Duke’s OLLI consist of numerous retired faculty, authors and corporate executives – even former CIA agents – who are yearning for new connections and opportunities to share their passion and expertise.

Our city consistently shows care and compassion for the older adults in our community. It is full of people and resources – some of which you can find below – that are passionate about providing assistance and fulfillment for seniors. -Anna Elsasser

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Durham Magazine Intern

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