May has the dual designations of Older Americans Month (since 1963) and Mental Health Month (since 1949). The relevance of recognizing both of those in the same month
means something greater this year. Older adults are at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, which makes social isolation more important.
To compound the issue of isolation, research indicates that older adults in North America are more likely to
than in other parts of the world.
Living in isolation can lead to feelings of
"aloneness" and depression.
This can make for a dangerous combination. Before the pandemic, Senior Centers provided a place in the community
for older adults to socialize, grow intellectually, get information, exercise, and eat a healthy meal. During the shutdown, millions of older adults in North America
have suddenly lost that community connection. Fortunately for them, the people who run Senior Centers
didn't throw their hands in the air and give up. No, the people who run Senior Centers are amazingly innovative, creative and caring.
In this issue we're shining a spotlight on some of those special people and how they've adapted in order to serve their Seniors.
Welcome to...Fun Facts - the Special Spotlight edition
Hundreds of Centers across the Network are holding virtual programs on a live or pre-recorded basis. For those Seniors who are fortunate enough to have a computer or tablet
with internet access, these programs are a fantastic way to stay connected during the shutdown. Here are examples of how classes are listed virtually:
Sorry for the change to your lyrics Bruce, but this is important.
Several enterprising Centers have partnered with their local cable television channels to carry their programs on a regular schedule. It's less interactive than a
livestream, but potentially reaches more people and has the added benefit of allowing people to maintain part of their routine. Here are some examples:
Making masks has become an engaging and socially-responsible activity for many Seniors. The Lincoln, MI Senior Center has become a
face-covering supply and distribution hub for
Alcona County residents. Seniors can pick up supplies and bring back completed masks or stick around to do their work. In South Plainfield, NJ, the staff and a few members
created masks for all Seniors in town and are now giving them to the rest of the community. Excellent can-do spirit!
It's amazing how quickly Centers switched their congregate meal operation to a take-out function or even an expanded home-delivered service. Approximately 200,000 meals per day are being distributed
across the Network.
Last month we mentioned how Centers were stuffing bingo cards into their bagged lunches so people could play along on a conference call later.
Bethany Loveless in Dracut, MA is not only providing bingo kits for their twice weekly games, but she also has kits for a follow-along art class and a follow-along crafting class on
local cable. Great integration of brick-and-mortar with virtual.
- Leslie Lyne from Neptune Beach, FL has invited Seniors to call her personal cell if they need any groceries. She's running all over town in order to keep her Seniors safe
- Peter Wilson at the Florence Douglas Center in Vallejo, CA has started a honk and wave train. Just call or email the Center and leave your name, phone and address and you get
added to the next drive-by honking
- Morgan Doughtie and her staff in Nash County, NC have flipped the honk-and-wave idea around and have scheduled a series of Parade of Members events
where the staff stands outside in the parking lot and members drive by and chat from an appropriate social distance
- Reed Price from Bainbridge Island, WA has been holding a daily video chat with his Seniors. They cover topics ranging from new books to Earth Day ideas to what's
good on Netflix. He says the goal of these "over-the-back-fence" discussions is to keep the community connected
You're the ones who have to keep a brave face in all of this, but that doesn't mean it's easy on you. Wellmed has excellent resources for Caregivers that
you can watch and/or listen to here.
Thank you for these incredible ideas. Each one came from a phone conversation or email submission. The one common denominator from all of them was the staff missing their members
tremendously. There are amazing Senior Center personnel out there willing to try different things, take risks and be innovative during the crisis to make sure their Seniors are safe
and staying connected. We're all lucky to have you. If you'd like to submit an idea for inclusion in the next issue, please
send us a note.