The David Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Palo Alto, California, identifies, develops, and implements innovations that improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. linkAges, which stands for “link” across the “ages,” is one such innovation that builds community connections to support “successful” aging. The linkAges program helps older community members feel less lonely, less isolated, and more useful. In this interview, Dr. Paul Tang, director of the Druker Center, describes the philosophy behind linkAges and explains how the program works.
The linkAges program combines local community support and services with time banking, which is a framework in which people exchange skills or services, to build social connections among its members. Time banks create communities that include and engage residents of all ages. When a member gives assistance, he gets a “credit.” He can then use the credit to choose a service from the various offers posted on the linkAges website. For example, one member might drive an older person to a doctor appointment, then use her credit to get a babysitting service. Today, there are approximately eight hundred members in such communities throughout Northern California. The Druker Center plans to expand linkAges into Sacramento next year and across the nation in the near future. The linkAges program demonstrates the benefits that social interactions provide to people, young and old.