Jodi Southerland

Jodi Southerland
Location: Rogersville, Tennessee Cohort Start Year: 2019 Project Topics: Community/Civic Engagement, Elder Care, Family Caregiving and Intergenerational Activities, Public, Population and Community Health Populations Served: Older Adults (65+), Rural Communities
Assistant Professor
East Tennessee State University

Jodi is a lifelong resident of Northeast Tennessee. She uses her platform as a family caregiver to advocate for improved services for rural older adults and the individuals who provide them with care. Jodi is founder of Connections, a network of local organizations working together to transform Hawkins and Hancock County, TN through partnerships and placed-based health equity approaches. She is an inaugural member of the American Society on Aging Health and Well-being Council.

Jodi’s vision is to bring together community champions who can develop systems of supports for rural older adults aging in place. Strengthening partnerships with local change agents, and co-creating asset-based approaches to addressing inequities, is central to transforming rural Northeast Tennessee into an age friendly community. She seeks to create a world where older adults age well, where their voices are heard and valued, and where they thrive in their homes and communities.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Tennessee Network to Support Older Adults Aging in Place
Most older adults would prefer to age in place, yet there are significant barriers for them to do so in rural communities. I want to ensure that older adults in rural Hawkins and Hancock County, Tennessee, can lead healthy, vibrant, productive, and engaged lives. Community-serving organizations and the leaders who guide them are key to accomplishing this goal. My initiative aims to create a network of local leaders to advance community-led action and place-based strategies to support older adults aging in place. The network is designed to connect rural leaders to each other and to their communities for the purpose of collectively tackling the sociostructural drivers of health inequities among older residents. To operationalize these goals and objectives, the network will seek to provide network members with capacity-building tools and resources to build a healthy nonprofit ecosystem. We will identify and coordinate work that is already happening so the network can leverage its collective leadership and influence to collaborate around common goals and minimize duplication of efforts. Longer term, network members will work together to influence local policies and priorities affecting older residents.

Jodi is a passionate preserver of Appalachian traditions, food culture, and music, and operates an angus beef cattle farm with her spouse. She finds inspiration from her family having been raised in a farming community that modeled hard work, caring for the land, and helping others.

Click here to watch Jodi’s Legacy Project video.