Barker thrives in serving seniors
For Life After 50
Connector. That’s what Jody Barker is most proud to be called. Connecting seniors and families to services, or providers and agencies to collaborate, is what drives him every day.
Barker recently took on his newest role in senior services, by becoming the director of the Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging (PPAAA), a division of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments. The PPAAA administers the Older Americans Act and Older Coloradoan Act funds and distributes those through the three-county area served by this agency, which includes Park, Teller and El Paso counties. “It’s a privilege to now work alongside so many colleagues I’ve collaborated with over the years, as mutual referral sources and community partners,” he explained.
When Barker began working with the Senor Times (now Life After 50) in 1998, he was continually amazed at the amount of services available to seniors and their families. He began to understand there were passionate people, doing incredible work, for those clients. As he got deeper into the senior services community however, he realized he could be a connector. “I realized I was good at making those connections for people, and they followed up with whomever I referred them to for services.” he explained. “There was a level of trust placed in what I shared.” He continued, “I then realized, that was what drove me to gather more information, more connections, and understand more about the services this community offered our seniors.”
As his roles changed in the community, creating his own senior-services resource agency, then some time with a homecare agency, he says his experience and those connections continued to serve him well. “I realized, with those connections, I was becoming a resource to seniors and their families.”
Eventually that role in homecare became a stepping-stone in 2011 to the Colorado Springs Senior Center. “I’d been in and out of there since the beginning and realized this could be a great role for me and a way to continue serving seniors in a different way.” Barker became the assistant director, then director in 2014.
Through many of those connections, Barker is proud to have also served as a member of a variety of Boards of Directors, including the Senior Resource Council, Senior Mobile Dental, Innovations in Aging Collaborative and is currently still a member of the Colorado Commission on Aging, appointed by Governor Hickenlooper. “Each one of these opportunities has served to expand connections in the community, and around the state, and makes sure that senior services continue to be at the forefront of projects,” he said.
Along with the variety of his roles and experience, Barker gives credit to many partnering agencies and colleagues he has worked with over the years. “There is a wealth of knowledge in our community around senior services that is difficult to put into words. However, those partnerships and the collaboration between agencies is what serves this community best.” He explained that Colorado Springs, and the broader region are recognized state-wide and nationally, for the work to promote and enhance senior services. “And I’m excited to be part of that,” he said. “I really appreciate that so many of my colleagues will let me lean on their knowledge, so we can best serve our community.”
Some time with the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado also served him well, working even more closely with families. “As debilitating as Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia can be, many times knowing there are resources available can make a huge difference for a family, spouse or friend.” Even while being that resource, Barker also relied on colleagues and other agencies to fill the gaps and make sure those he served knew of as many resources as possible. “That’s where those connections served me best,” he explained. “Sometimes our seniors and families need more resources than a single agency can provide, and its always important to ‘read-between-the-lines’ when we serve them. Its the classic case of not knowing all the right questions to ask. Many colleagues and co-workers have that ability to add more info and provide a well-rounded list of services for a mutual client.”
Now, as director of PPAAA, he works daily with agencies and colleagues throughout the region that further enhance the ability of seniors to live as independently as possible. And when that is no longer an option, “we can still connect them with services, through our direct programs, provider partners or other agencies and businesses,” he explained. “As our region ages and grows, we know those partnerships must also grow, and I’m happy to be where I am today.”
Those looking for services or information and assistance for seniors over 60 years of age can contact the Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging at 719-471-2096 or www.ppacg.org/aging.