CRIS Healthy Aging continuing to meet seniors' needs

Feb. 4—DANVILLE — CRIS Healthy Aging has long been a part of Vermilion County offering services and activities for seniors.

One late morning this week at CRIS in Danville, there was a group playing cards, another senior watched television, one senior was receiving help on an issue with a CRIS employee and meals in coolers also were ready to go for the meal delivery program that day.

New Executive Director Lisa Miller said COVID-19 slowed some congregate meals and other events the last few years at CRIS, but programs and activities have returned and are expanding here and also in Champaign. She oversees both CRIS Healthy Aging locations, but is based in Danville.

Miller started at CRIS in November. She had previously worked in health care administration for 24 years at Liberty Village in Danville. She worked her way up from marketing director to manager and licensed administrator.

Miller is a Danville High School graduate who attended Danville Area Community College and Eastern Illinois University.

She said she loves working with seniors. Her grandparents helped raise her.

"I just have this natural love for seniors," Miller said.

In her new role, she can work on providing services for seniors.

"I just thought it seemed like a perfect fit. So, I'm very excited," Miller said.

In addition to a new director, CRIS is now under the umbrella of Carle Health.

CRIS Healthy Aging is part of the Community Health division at Carle. The other two areas under that division are Home Health & Hospice and Community Health Initiatives.

CRIS is a non-profit organization. Its mission is to keep older adults safe, healthy and independent in their own homes for as long as possible.

Miller said CRIS is still self-funded through grants, state contracts and donations. The agency can now offer employees benefits by being part of Carle, but CRIS pays Carle back for those benefits.

Miller said with services, they can work with Carle Hospice and Home Health.

"So, we all kind of blend together in providing much better services for the clients that we serve," she said.

Between the Danville and Champaign CRIS locations, there are 42 staff members.

CRIS Rural Mass Transit District is separate now.

One of the areas CRIS is pushing again, is more resident involvement in its nutrition program.

CRIS Healthy Aging encourages Vermilion County residents to take part in breakfasts and also other activities at the Danville facility.

"We are really expanding that this year," Miller said of the congregate meals that had slowed down with COVID-19.

CRIS serves breakfast cooked to order from 7 to 8:45 a.m. Monday through Friday. A $3 donation is asked for payment, but seniors, ages 60 and older, don't have to pay if they are unable to. For additional persons, such as a younger family member, it costs $6 a person.

"They have their little groups and they come and meet," Miller said about CRIS having breakfast club-like groups meet up.

A Valentine's luncheon will be at 11 a.m. Feb. 13 with entertainment by Hoosier Daddy sponsored by Gardenview Manor. Those interested can RSVP by Feb. 10. There also will be one in Hoopeston on Feb. 15 with bingo. They will serve lasagna, salad, bread sticks and dessert. The cost is the same, $3 suggested donation for those age 60 and older, and $6 for others.

The Valentine luncheon has limited seating. Call 217-443-2999 to sign up or see reception.

Miller said they will have monthly themed luncheons and expand off of that.

She said their breakfasts dropped down to seeing about 10 people regularly, but it has grown to about 25 regulars.

"We'd like to expand that even more," Miller said. "I think a lot of people don't understand that they can come here and have a delicious cooked-to-order breakfast for nothing."

Valentine's Day will see a buffet with a set menu for breakfast.

In 2022, CRIS served 897 individuals and 9,202 meals for the congregate meals.

Home delivery of meals for those who can't go to CRIS also continues for many county residents.

In 2022, for home delivered meals, CRIS served 595 clients and delivered 82,608 meals to their homes in Vermilion County.

Miller said their goal is to expand that this year, but they need to come up with more funding.

CRIS has meals in Hoopeston at the Multi-Agency, and it also is trying to have some congregate meals in Georgetown.

"We don't want anyone to go hungry," Miller said.

She too said they'd like to expand their volunteer program which helps with the home-delivered meals.

Other programming

CRIS provides a variety of services and programs for seniors. This time of year, CRIS has free income tax services for seniors. There are bridge and euchre clubs. Seniors are welcome to come in anytime.

There are Memory Cafe meetings, Book Support, Caregiver groups, a grandparents with grandchildren program and other meetings and services.

CRIS' receptionist can help seniors, including who are new to the area, about what services could be beneficial to them.

Miller said in addition to taxes, they can help seniors receive discounts on their driver's licenses and vehicle stickers, and if they have Medicare or Medicaid and insurance issues.

Through adult protective services, CRIS can step in when there is an abusive situation, such as physical or mental abuse or financial abuse. CRIS works with police as needed.

Miller said they get about 30 new abuse cases a month in Vermilion County.

"I find that very disturbing," she said.

In addition, there is a violent crime victim assistance program.

CRIS also provides home caregiver services.

An Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Care Seminar, with a fee, will be 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 15 for health care professionals and frontline staff and first responders.

Carolyn Gordon, a public relations communications partner with Carle Health, said CRIS is here to advocate for seniors, not to sell a product or something. CRIS is a safe place to come to for unbiased advice, she added.

CRIS also has started Aging Master Program classes in Champaign and will start them later this year in Danville. The class topics include exercise, falls prevention, healthy eating and hydration, medication management, healthy relationships, financial fitness and sleep.

Miller said they see some seniors who are knowledgeable and comfortable with using electronics. Some go on CRIS' website for the calendar of events, information and for online assistance.

In their caregiver program, CRIS can provide homes with an Alexa device or different devices where the senior can ask Alexa to play an old Frank Sinatra song or something else or ask about the weather and other things. Dementia and Alzheimer's residents learn to talk to Alexa, and it can give a caregiver a break.

Miller said she'd love to see the return of an adult day care in Danville. It's doable with some possible locations that have a closed wing and separate entrance, and a provider could charge private pay and bill Medicaid, she said.

"I think that would be a wonderful service," she said about trying to work on that.

Grandparents raising grandchildren, age 18 and under, has been a program too that has seen more local seniors participate at CRIS through group meetings and other support. CRIS worked with the Salvation Army at Christmas to provide toys for the families, and Carle staff donated gift cards for the older grandchildren.

CRIS can help with money management and memory care. It also is a warming center during cold weather.

CRIS is working with local state representatives to have a Medicare fraud seminar possibly in July.

"We're trying to plan a lot of things this year," Miller said.

For more information about programs and services, CRIS Healthy Aging at 309 N. Franklin St. in Danville is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. CRIS also can be reached by calling 217-443-2999 or go to the website: