As a child, Amber Phillips developed a passion for working with seniors while caring for her grandparents. Today, she channels that passion into Love Thy Elders Enrichment Services, a North Carolina-based organization that offers meaningful and fun community engagement opportunities to individuals aged 50 and above.
“Love Thy Elders was a long-awaited dream,” said Phillips, who founded the organization in 2019 and serves as the executive director. “Our organization enhances the quality of life for active senior citizens through the coordination of accessible collaborative community programs which foster socialization and community engagement. Overall, we encourage senior citizens to ‘embrace longevity through engagement.’”
Activities include guided historical village tours, fresh produce exploration through market tours and trips to vintage and contemporary shops and eateries. These excursions are designed to help participants develop peer relationships and experience improved emotional and social well-being, all while engaging with their community in a positive way. Ultimately, Phillips said, Love Thy Elders aims to prevent social isolation and keep seniors actively aging in their communities while enabling them to stay out of institutionalized care.
She recounts Love Thy Elders’ first trip as one of the organization’s proudest moments.
“We had 10 seniors ranging in age from 50 to 86 years old. We were able to roll out the ‘red carpet’ by providing curbside pick-up and escorting them to various coordinated destinations throughout North Carolina. Our Embracing Black Influence Community Excursion destinations included a guided tour of the Levine Museum of the New South: Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers Exhibit, exploration of the African American Heritage Festival at the Charlotte History Museum, a self-guided tour of various Black master artists exhibits and the creation of art in the style of one of the artists at the Harvey B. Gantt Center, and the viewing of the once Black star-studded cast in the play ‘The Trip to Bountiful’ at Lee Street Theater. After attending the excursion, every participant praised our efforts in providing a ‘memorable experience.’”
In addition to planning engaging and educational programs, an important component of Love Thy Elders is financial and health equity for seniors. One of the organization’s goals is to enable adults to have access to their community regardless of economic constraints or lack of access to transportation. To address these issues, Love Thy Elders provides door-to-door transportation to and from planned events. Programs are priced affordably in comparison to value, and scholarships are available for individuals who may otherwise be unable to participate.
Weathering COVID-19 and Moving Forward
Along with countless other organizations across the globe, Love Thy Elders’ work was brought to a standstill by the COVID-19 virus. Though spring and summer 2020 events were canceled, Phillips said that she hopes to re-open events starting in fall 2020 and will take measures to keep participants safe.
“Our community excursions will follow all Centers for Disease Control guidelines and local health department protocols for continued service provision. Our excursions will include precautionary measures such as wearing face coverings when six feet of social distancing is not permissible and increased sanitization efforts of high-contact areas among participants and staff. Future excursions will include more outdoor sights and sounds where social distancing can be enforced,” she said.
Moving forward, Phillips also hopes to increase the organization’s reach and to be able to provide more scholarships for those in need.
“We hope to expand our service model for creating community engagement opportunities and access to those opportunities for senior adults nationwide. We want to provide a positive outlet for senior adults who live alone or have little to no social support networks,” she said. “Our goal is to help change the way services are provided to the senior population to meet them in their communities.”