It was 1990, and a relatively unfamiliar specialty in the insurance industry was becoming more well-known. While insurance wasn't a professional road Barbara Franklin had considered traveling, the new long-term care insurance being marketed by American Express piqued her interest and she joined its sales team.

To learn more

To learn more about the South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition and services available from its members and their contact information, visit and click on "Resources."

Service categories include:

Help to maintain or enhance quality of life and health.

Assistance with home modification, safety and other housing alternatives.

Advice on financial and legal issues.

Resources to provide overall support and guidance.

Remaining mobile by using its Independent Transportation Network.

Five years later, as her company, Franklin & Associates was born, she was well aware that everyday issues related to senior care were repeatedly being raised by long-term care insurance clients.

Around 2002, Franklin and husband, Paul, attended a conference in Washington, D.C., that focused on what was becoming known as aging in place. Conference leaders were planning a week-long observance to shed light on issues involving support for seniors growing older and wanting some measure of independence. They encouraged attendees to do the same.

"Paul said, 'We can do that,' " Franklin recalls her husband saying. The two founded the South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition, a nonprofit organization comprising government agencies, academic professionals, private businesses and others. The coalition has 22 chapters with Charleston's being the most active. It started hosting Aging in Place Week in Charleston, which covers the range of senior lifestyle issues.

What aging in place is

Aging in place means that seniors can remain in the residence they choose and have the services they need to support their changing lifestyle. The coalition's goal is not only to see that they obtain the services but that they are enabled to be as independent, comfortable and safe as possible.

"Aging in place is now mainstream, but also at its tipping point," says Franklin, who was installed as the South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition chairwoman earlier this month. "I feel I have a lot to give."

One of the main challenges to seniors, whether they choose to reside in an assisted-living facility, their own home or someplace else, is connecting with the right people to get needed services. The coalition's member groups provide services to maintain or enhance quality of life and health; make home modifications for safety and offer housing alternatives; deal with financial and legal issues; provide overall support and guidance; and remain both independent and mobile, Franklin says.

"It is tied in very much with what I do day to day. It is tied in with what all the members of the coalition do. I work with the financial side, but I've learned, as time goes by, that there's a lot more to it. Even if a parent has long-term care insurance, their sons or daughters may not know how to access services that they need.

"People need to know how to make a connection. We haven't done enough to get that word out," she says.

Reaching out more

Franklin says that during her two-year term as chair of the coalition, she will speak more and use social media more to connect with churches, senior centers and other venues where older citizens can be reached directly.

In addition, she will reach out to adult children of seniors who may not be familiar with how to access services for their parents. She also will try to forge stronger relationships with organizations such as the local Association for the Blind and Alzheimer's Association.

"They need us and we need them," Franklin says. "If we can connect, we don't have to reinvent the wheel."

Some of that work already has been done, she says. But she hears some of the concerns raised years ago being raised today.

One important way to reach adult children would be the human resources departments of companies trying to educate their employees about what's available. It helps the productivity of companies and adult children if the latter do not have to spend the workday concerned about whether their parents' needs are being met.

The human resources field is something both Franklin and her husband, Paul, understand. They both worked in human resources management for Bayer in Pittsburgh. The two moved to Charleston in 1988, when he was asked to become Bayer's human resources manager in North Charleston. He retired from the company and since 1999 has run Franklin Funding, which specializes in reverse mortgages.

"There used to be a period of time when grandma's daughter or daughter-in-law took care of her," Barbara Franklin says. It would be nice to think that would happen today, she says. But the reality is that those adult children may live in another state, be working to put their children through college or have other responsibilities that prevent them from providing hands-on assistance.

"I think there's a little social worker in me," Franklin says. "I function a lot like a social worker."

Not only does she consider the social needs of today's seniors, but she and her husband prepare for their own future as well. One thing they did when moving into their downtown condominium five years ago was to make changes that will help them to age in place there as time moves on.

They renovated the apartment to add lever door knobs, grab bars and widened doors to make the place suitable for persons needing wheelchair access. They also removed the bathtub and installed a shower that they could wheel themselves into it if they ever need to.

Can-do attitude

Dick Giffen, president of the Mount Pleasant Senior Center's advisory board, knows Franklin well.

"Her attitude is a very 'can do' attitude," Giffen says. "That's the way she is. She's very curious and wanting to listen to people and wanting to try out their ideas. I have been excited by her leadership in so many ways.

"She's fascinated by everything and very involved," Giffen says adding he's very proud that she has been elected to chair SCAIPC.

While the Franklins' business and community activities involve seniors, they engage in something else when its time to recharge.

They enjoy adventure travel.

"There's where I get my juice," Franklin says. "I'm blessed. I have a bucket list. We've gone to Antarctica. I want to travel to southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Travel gets us out of the routine.

"I have lots of heart strings attached to Vienna," where her mother is from and she has visited, she says.

"I've had occasion to go to Ireland three times. I went to the little stone building where my grandfather was born. My grandparents never returned to Ireland when they left. I felt compelled to go back."

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.