Nonprofit Heroes

Helping Seniors Age Well in South Suburbs

pathlights nonprofit

To help more people understand the important work it does serving seniors in the South Suburbs, a long-established nonprofit agency recently renamed itself Pathlights.

Formerly called PLOWS Council on Aging, the 45-year-old agency conducted a complete rebranding, according to spokeswoman Jenn Petterson, including a new website that better organizes information.

They pared down nine service categories to four, renaming them to better reflect words people would use while searching. For example, instead of “Home-Delivered Meals,” that category is now called “Food.”

“Some of the names were more internal, and not names that a person might ask about. We thought we needed to make it more simple for people, so we reorganized a bit of our narrative,” Petterson said.

Pathlights provides support to people 60 and older in four areas: food, shelter, care and safety. Founded in Oak Lawn in 1975, the organization now operates from a larger office in Palos Heights.

Its employees serve about 16,000 residents coming from 20 villages in Palos, Lemont, Orland and Worth townships. The organization helps seniors connect with services to keep them healthy and cared for, including:

Food: Meals on Wheels and SNAP assistance programs

Housing: Housing assistance, shared housing, energy assistance, weatherization, property tax savings

Care: In-home services, caregiver support, respite care benefits assistance, choices for care

Safety: Adult protective services

Safety: Adult protective services

While seniors are the beneficiaries of Pathlights’ services, the organization works with adults of all ages, Petterson explained.

“We guide people along the multiple paths of aging,” she said. “We’re all aging every day, and everyone in the community is part of aging. So we truly serve the community at large.”

Through its shared housing program, for example, Pathlights pairs seniors with short- and long-term roommates. These roommates of multiple ages help offset housing costs and also act as companions, helping to abate loneliness.

One program participant started hosting roommates when her husband died, and has since had five successful shared housing experiences, including with a college student.

Many people can contribute to the care of older individuals, including their spouse, children, loved ones, friends and even neighbors. Pathlights assists these “informal” caregivers, as well, providing them with peer support and counseling about their loved ones’ options for long-term care.

Pathlights also provides familial caregivers with respite care, giving them time to leave the house for grocery shopping, a haircut, doctor appointment or “even just to sit in the backyard for a little while,” Petterson said.

Respite care through Pathlights is available to everyone within its service area, and the program is not income-dependent. Petterson said the organization also battles the perception that only low-income families can use its services.

“Some people think our services are only for people with a certain income or asset level,” Petterson said. “Many of our programs are made possible through grants, and require certain income criteria. But there are many programs where it doesn’t matter if you’re high or low income. If it’s determined you can’t access healthy food, we can get you food delivery.”

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