Survey Finds Millions of Older Americans Need Help with Basic Daily Tasks;...

Survey Finds Millions of Older Americans Need Help with Basic Daily Tasks; Della Reese to Lead Effort in Raising Awareness of Faith in Action


WASHINGTON,–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – U.S. Newswire)–June 3, 2003–A new survey released today finds that more than one quarter of Americans over age 55, approximately 16 million people, struggle with daily activities as simple as shopping, cooking and housework. Nearly one half of those who have difficulty do not receive any help from family or others. To address this need, Touched by an Angel’s Della Reese is leading an effort to spread the word about a national network of free, interfaith, community-based services called Faith in Action.

“We have found people sitting in the dark because they can’t reach the light fixture to change the bulb – and don’t have anyone to help,” said Reese. “Millions of Americans need our help or they will lose the independence they cherish. Faith in Action’s network of volunteers can help meet the need.”

Reese, singer, actress, performer, and minister – perhaps best known for her role as “Tess” on the hit television series – now joins Faith in Action as the national spokesperson making it her mission to spread the word about the network of free, interfaith, community-based services. She also is committed to encouraging more people to volunteer to help their neighbors in need.

With Della Reese, Faith in Action released the findings of a new study at a national news conference in Washington, D.C. This broad new study surveyed the general population of older Americans to gauge the challenges they face as they age and the needs they have as they seek to remain independent. The survey also found that many older people are themselves providing assistance to family, friends, and neighbors and these caregivers face challenges of their own. This new poll comes on the heels of an AARP report, which focused exclusively on Americans 50 and older with disabilities and found that they also are not getting the help they need and cannot afford the cost of care.

The poll, conducted by Lake Snell Perry & Associates, indicates that of those older Americans who report difficulties with daily activities, almost half want help with housework and cleaning while one-third or more want assistance with yard work, shopping, and transportation. When these older Americans have tried to find help in their community, almost a third say they have had difficulty finding someone. The lack of assistance and difficulty finding additional help threatens the ability of these older Americans to continue to live independently in their homes and communities.

“The research clearly demonstrates the tremendous need that exists for older Americans and the urgency of providing services now,” said Michael Perry, lead researcher on the study and partner at Lake Snell Perry & Associates.

The survey also found that more than a quarter of Americans over 55 are currently providing care for a spouse, parent, other family member or friend. As many as half of these caregivers report feeling stressed and tired from their responsibilities, and four in 10 report that caregiving has affected their own health. Nearly 60 percent of caregivers would like help, but nearly two-thirds are not aware of free services in their community.

In an effort to help these older Americans, Faith in Action, a national program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is stepping up its efforts to increase awareness of its current programs, to create new programs, and to recruit new volunteers to help their neighbors in need. The Foundation began its interfaith caregiving initiative in 1984 by establishing 25 pilot sites and continued in 1993 with the introduction of Faith in Action.

Faith in Action has now expanded to more than 1,000 programs across the country, all working to ensure that more Americans get the help they need to stay in their homes and live in their communities. To date, the Foundation has committed more than $35 million to establish programs in communities throughout the United States. Grant money continues to be available.

“In many communities throughout the country, free services are available through Faith in Action programs,” said Dr. Burton Reifler, national director of Faith in Action. “We aim to provide communities with the resources they need to establish interfaith volunteer programs and provide people with the opportunity to help their neighbors.”

The survey also suggests that older Americans prefer receiving assistance from faith-based organizations over secular organizations (47 percent vs. 19 percent).

According to the survey, maintaining their independence is extremely important to Americans over 55. In fact, the research found that the two things they value most are maintaining their independence and staying in their homes and communities.

“When I volunteer through Faith in Action, I know that I’m helping my neighbors stay in our community, the place where they are comfortable and happy, said Bill Kirby, Faith in Action volunteer at the Shepard’s Center in Oakton, Va. “I feel like I get more out of the experience than the people I help.”

“Millions of older Americans are fighting to maintain their independence every day,” said Reese. “We must not forget the needs of our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and neighbors. They are depending on us, and we must answer their call.”

For a copy of the full research report, visit the Lake Snell Perry & Associates Web site at

To find a Faith in Action program in your community, call toll free at 877- 324-8411 or visit the Web site at

Faith in Action is a national interfaith volunteer caregiving initiative supported by a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by Wake Forest University School of Medicine. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grantmaking in four goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to quality health care at reasonable cost; to improve the quality of care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse – tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs.



Faith in Action

Julie Moriarty, 202-338-8700

Survey Finds Millions of Older Americans Need Help with Basic Daily Tasks; Della Reese to Lead Effort in Raising Awareness of Faith in Action