Area Agencies on Aging Play a Key Role in Addressing
Needs of Older Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For Immediate Release
July 8, 2020
Contact: Joellen Leavelle, and 202.872.0888
WASHINGTON—A new report, #AAAsAtWork for Older Adults: A Snapshot of Area Agency on Aging Responses to COVID-19, describes the innovative ways Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) leveraged their expertise and deep community connections to address the growing needs of older adults as the COVID-19  pandemic struck the United States.
The report highlights the results of a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) in mid-May 2020 to deepen its understanding of how its members are responding to older adults needs during the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities—and to learn what their needs might be moving forward, as these vital local agencies, along with the nation, grapple with the immediate and long-term effects of the new coronavirus on the population it has hit the hardest. The survey results indicate that needs of older adults are growing, with 93 percent of responding AAAs having served more clients since the pandemic began, and 69 percent noting an increased need for supports and services among their existing client base.
“This report tells two stories, one that shows the growing and changing needs of older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic and another that highlights how n4a members have revamped their programs and services overnight to help meet these evolving needs,” said Sandy Markwood, n4a CEO. “Not only did our members overhaul their programs, but they used their creativity to develop new ways to support older adults whose needs have become more pronounced during the pandemic.”
Reflecting the growing needs of older adults and caregivers in their communities:
  • 60 percent of AAAs said they were already seeing the negative health effects of social isolation on older adults and have updated (33 percent) or are actively exploring (37 percent) ways to update their programs to address these negative effects.  
  • 76 percent of AAAs are addressing social isolation by expanding, adapting or launching new telephone reassurance programs to mitigate the impact of social isolation and monitor the overall well-being of their older adult clients.
  • 90 percent of AAAs have transitioned group meal program participants to receive home-delivered meals or provided these congregate meal program participants with grab-and-go meals (67 percent) that allow older adults to pick up needed nutrition in the form of groceries and prepared meals.
  • 42 percent addressed a shortage of volunteers by tapping new outlets, such as teachers and other background-checked employees (35 percent) or using college students (21 percent) to fill this deficit.
  • Formed new partnerships by working with non-traditional partners such as restaurants (52 percent) to provide meals to older adults or community groups to provide hygiene and other critical supplies to older adults in need (61 percent).
  • 63 percent of responding AAAs indicated a continued need for personal protective equipment (PPE), without which they would not be able to provide in-home supportive services such as bathing and toileting.
  • Responding AAAs indicated that they will need technological solutions to support clients who have limited/no Internet access (88 percent), reduce social isolation (83 percent) and help clients learn to use the technology they do have (77 percent). 
The report illustrates the need for additional federal support that these local agencies will need as they continue to serve older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Despite several rounds of emergency federal funding released earlier this year, this report makes clear that AAAs and their state and local partners will need an infusion of additional federal resources in order to maintain these services to older adults for the duration of the pandemic, as well support in transforming aging services to reflect the new realities of older adults and their caregivers,” said Amy E. Gotwals, n4a Chief, Public Policy and External Affairs.
#AAAsAtWork highlights the challenges ahead for AAAs and the Aging Network. Looking ahead, they will need to address workforce gaps, find new ways to serve older adults who have limited or no access to technology, and implement solutions to reduce the longer-term effects of social isolation on the mental and physical health of the older adults and caregivers they serve,” said Markwood. “This is why it is critical that older adults remain a top focus of families, communities and policymakers.”

About the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) is a 501(c)(3) membership association representing America's national network of 622 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and providing a voice in the nation's capital for the more than 250 Title VI Native American aging programs. The mission of n4a is to build the capacity of its members so they can better help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

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