Examples from the Field

Building on the grab-and-go model of food distribution that many n4a members have adopted, n4a is sharing examples of how AAAs and Title VI programs are adjusting existing and launching new programs and services to continue to safely serve older adults, people with disabilities and their caregivers throughout the COVID-19 crisis. 

Emergency Federal Funding

Grocery and Medication Delivery | Piedmont Senior Resources | Farmville, VA
With the emergency federal funding it received as part of the CARES Act, Piedmont Senior Resources (PSR) launched new grocery and medication delivery programs to help at-risk older adults stay safely in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants in the AAA’s grocery program receive a standard approved list of groceries that they can pick up from selected grocery stores. In order to receive grocery delivery, clients must call PSR seven business days before their requested drop-off date and must be home when the groceries are delivered. Grocery shopping takes place monthly and gift cards are used for purchasing with a maximum spending amount.
 
Clients participating in the medication program must contact their pharmacist to confirm that a PSR staff member or volunteer will be paying for and picking up their medications. To ensure staff are available, clients must contact PSR 10 business days in advance of their requested prescription pick-up date. The PSR staff or volunteer designated to pick-up the medication also separately confirms with the pharmacist.

Partnering with Restaurants to Get Meals to Older Adults
Many AAAs have partnered with local restaurants to get more meals to older adults while supporting local businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Florida, the Area Agencies on Aging, Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Department of Business and Professional Regulation and Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association announced a statewide partnership to ensure older adults across the state have safe access to food. The state’s 11 AAAs have since worked with their local restaurants, volunteers and service providers to ensure that fresh, restaurant-prepared meal delivery or pickup options exist for older adults in need. One of the AAAs involved in the partnership, Orlando’s Senior Resource Alliance, created the Meals of Love program, which quickly surpassed its initial goals and has served more than 130,000 meals since April 10. The program has also helped the local economy; one of the restaurants involved credited the Meals of Love program as to why it was able to continue operating during the pandemic.

Grocery Delivery Program | Midland Area Agency on Aging | Hastings, NE
The Midland Area Agency on Aging used emergency federal funding to create a new program to provide groceries to older adults during the COVID-19 crisis, complementing existing meal programs. The AAA provided more than 1,000 bags of groceries containing fresh produce and shelf-stable items to older adults in its eight-county area in May. Employees and volunteers gathered to bag groceries, which included items like celery, carrots, cheese crackers, apples, oranges, peanut butter and cookies. Once the bags were packed, 40 drivers helped deliver the bags to home-delivered and congregate meal participants as well as care management and in-home services clients. The AAA hopes to offer this grocery delivery again in the coming months. 

Essential Supplies

Emergency Hygiene Kits for Older Adults | Area Agency on Aging of Pasco – Pinellas, Inc. | St. Petersburg, FL
As a growing number of callers to its Elder Helpline requested information on where to find necessities like toilet paper and other basic hygiene supplies, the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco – Pinellas, Inc. (AAAPP) partnered with the United Way of Pasco and the American House Foundation to ensure older adults would be able to receive these much-needed supplies every month. AAAPP used its home-delivered meal deliveries and drive-through meals sites to distribute emergency hygiene kits to more than 2,800 older adults in its community in the first week of implementation. The kits contain basic necessities for older adults including shampoo, soap, tissues, a toothbrush, toothpaste and toilet paper.

New Campaign to Assist with Critical Needs | Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging | Alabaster, AL
To ensure older adults and people with disabilities have the household supplies they need during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging (M4A) launched a new Critical Needs Fund campaign to assist clients with critical needs and connect members of the community with a safety net. Lomax Assembly of God, a local church, reached out to M4A to offer its assistance and within three days of connecting, the Lead Pastor, Associate Pastor and members of the church’s congregation purchased and delivered gift care packages to 45 M4A clients across the county. As of June 4, M4A has raised $10,000 of its $20,000 goal to expand the Critical Needs Fund campaign. These funds have allowed M4A to provide supplies, food and more to hundreds of homebound clients and other community members in need of immediate supplies. M4A continues to connect with partners, leaders and local community members to support their efforts to address barriers and hardships M4A clients are currently experiencing due to COVID-19.

Sponsor a Senior Program | Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging | Clearfield, PA
Seeing significant increased needs among older adults that could not be addressed by existing programs, the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging (CCAAA) launched a new “Sponsor a Senior” campaign to encourage members of the community and local businesses to “sponsor” an older adult for $20. The money raised through the campaign is used to help the agency meet the emerging needs of the county’s older adults by helping with costs related to home maintenance, meals, oral care, home supplies, protective equipment, telehealth interventions, and delivery services for groceries, prescriptions and other essentials and more. Since the campaign launched, CCAAA has received more than $7,000, and a combination of donated supplies and countless in-kind donations. Volunteers are helping to assemble PPE packets, consisting of hand sanitizer, a face mask and educational information on COVID-19, and activity packets, which include tools older adults can use to keep the body and mind engaged like puzzles, coloring books and games.

Local Partnerships Provide Shopping Assistance | Northumberland County Area Agency on Aging | Sunbury, PA
After the Northumberland County Area Agency on Aging heard from a number of its home-delivered meal program clients that they needed shopping assistance to supplement the daily meals they receive through the program, the AAA partnered with the Susquehanna Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which had previously contacted the AAA to offer assistance, for its help with packing and delivering food boxes and hygiene bags. The AAA used a Central Susquehanna Community Foundation Disaster Relief grant to purchase shelf-stable food items and personal hygiene products. Other community partners got involved, with International Paper donating 350 boxes for packing the food boxes, Function of Beauty providing 400 bottles of hand sanitizer to include in the personal hygiene bags, Watsontown Dollar General coordinating with other local locations to obtain puzzle books for distribution, and Northumberland County’s Adult Probation officers and a Maintenance Department team member assisting with unloading a delivery truck and setting up work stations. Approximately 60 Scouts and adult leaders met at the AAA’s office to package the food boxes and hygiene bags, while practicing physical distancing and wearing masks, before delivering to 350 older adults throughout the county.

Safety Kits | Region IV Area Agency on Aging | St. Joseph, MI
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Region IV Area Agency on Aging has distributed 3,500 face masks to the AAA’s home care clients who have the greatest need, caregivers of these clients, and volunteers with the AAA’s Foster Grandparent Program and Senior Companion Program. A Facebook group devoted to sewing masks took the AAA under its wing and sewed the cloth masks to help the community stay safe during COVID-19. Along with each mask, the AAA included a note with instructions on how and when to wear a mask, how to launder the mask, general safety reminders related to COVID-19 and contact information for the AAA.

Nutrition and Meals 

Quarantine Boxes and Virtual Food Drive | Michigan
Michigan’s Area Agencies on Aging are partnering with their state unit on aging and the Food Bank Council of Michigan to distribute “Quarantine Food Boxes” to food-insecure older adults who are sheltering in place during the COVID-19 crisis. Since the partnership began, 30,000 food boxes have been ordered with the first 10,000 boxes already distributed. The boxes are being distributed by volunteers, at pickup sites organized by the AAAs, and through local food banks and other community organizations. A virtual food drive was launched to solicit donations to help cover the $28 cost of a box. As of May 1, the food drive has raised approximately $50,000. One box contains enough shelf-stable food for at least 22 well-balanced meals and is intended to provide two people with two meals per day for 10 days. Each box weighs 26 pounds and contains 33 food items along with breakfast, lunch and dinner recipe ideas.  

Food and Supply Pantry Delivery | Ventura County Area Agency on Aging | Ventura, CA
In response to COVID-19, the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging (VCAAA) is now offering a full-service food and supply pantry at no cost to older adults and people with disabilities living in Ventura County. VCAAA’s Senior Nutrition Program increased its normal pantry supply and is now delivering groceries to older adults to help them stay home throughout COVID-19. The no-contact delivery contains at least two weeks’ worth of groceries, including fresh produce, dry goods, canned foods and toilet paper. The food supply is approved by the agency’s registered dietitian to ensure the grocery components meet the nutritional needs of older adults. Since the pandemic began, the Senior Nutrition Program has served nearly 9,000 people, more than double the normal amount. 

Partnership to Safely Meet Food Assistance Needs | Jefferson Area Board for Aging | Charlottesville, VA
With Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) senior centers closed due to stay-at-home orders, JABA worked with long-time partner Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (BRAFB) to sustain the collaborative Food Delivery program by developing a unique distribution plan for each senior center site. This program includes food boxes and bags that support nutritional needs for the older adults in each community. The boxes and bags are delivered by JABA Managers and on-site pick-up is also offered. These efforts are supported by JABA and BRAFB volunteers and staff. JAUNT, a local transportation provider and another of JABA’s long-time partners, also stepped in to donate transportation assistance for two of the sites. JAUNT drivers meet at the BRAFB’s Mobile Food Pantry to pick up boxes and bags of food and then deliver the food to homebound older adults across the two counties.

Partnering with the National Guard to Safely Deliver Meals | Chenango County Area Agency on Aging | Norwich, NY
Because many of the Chenango County Area Agency on Aging’s meal delivery volunteers are older adults and fall in the COVID-19 high-risk population, staff needed to find a way to continue its meals delivery program while keeping clients and volunteers safe. Chenango County officials suggested the National Guard may be an option to help with delivery and starting April 21, the National Guard soldiers began using Chenango County public transit buses to deliver meals and non-perishable goods across the county that are made and packaged by Chenango County AAA volunteers. The New York National Guard soldiers and airmen have been assisting with food distribution across the state since New York’s COVID-19 response began, and will continue to assist Chenango County AAA until the agency can resume normal operations.

New Volunteer Driver Program Helps Safely Provide Meals | Springwell, a Massachusetts Area Agency on Aging | Waltham, MA
After Springwell’s partnership with an employment service for adults with disabilities to deliver meals to older adults paused due to the statewide emergency order, Springwell staff quickly developed and launched a new volunteer program to fill the temporary need for drivers. Within three days, more than 150 community members answered the call for volunteers, and so far more than 65 volunteers have made it through the multi-step process to safely volunteer in the program.
 
Learn more about how Springwell launched a new volunteer program to respond to meal delivery challenges during the COVID-19 crisis here.

Partnering to Address Food Insecurity | United Way of Tarrant County’s Area Agency on Aging | Fort Worth, TX 
United Way of Tarrant County’s Area Agency on Aging teamed up with Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County, Tarrant County, Tarrant Area Food Bank and Catholic Charities Fort Worth to establish a new effort to address food insecurity and provide food to Tarrant County older adults throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Open to individuals 60 and older who do not have enough food to eat during the COVID-19 crisis or those who are experiencing reduced nutritional support from families and friends, participants receive a weekly home delivery of five frozen meals per person from Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County and a 10-pound box of canned goods and fresh produce from Tarrant Area Food Bank. All items are delivered by Catholic Charities Fort Worth, which re-engineered its transportation program to use its vehicles to transport and deliver the meals, groceries and produce. All participants also receive toiletries and telephone reassurance calls.

Partnership to Provide Meals to Low-Income Apartment Residents | Pima Council on Aging | Tucson, AZ
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the country, Pima Council on Aging (PCOA) looked to new ways it could help Pima County residents get the nutrition they need while staying safe and healthy. Using emergency federal funding from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, PCOA developed and launched a new partnership with low-income apartment complexes in the community to help older adults receive meals at home. Learn more about PCOA’s new partnership with local kitchens and apartment complexes and how they are providing nutritious meals at home to older adults living in low-income apartment complexes.

Outreach and Engagement 

A Simple Communications Technique to Help the Homebound | Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging | Scranton, PA
Building on similar efforts used in natural disasters to easily communicate one’s safety status, AAAs are adapting this simple tool to help older adults stay connected to resources that can help. For example, the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging partnered with the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties and State Representative Kyle Mullins to coordinate a new volunteer effort to assist homebound older adults in the community entitled Helping the Homebound Program. Older adults were provided with green and yellow sheets of paper with instructions to place the green sheet in a window to indicate if they are okay and the yellow sheet to indicate if they need help or assistance with an errand, such as grocery shopping or food delivery. Engaging with partners in the volunteer and faith-based communities to support local citizens’ efforts to support their older adult neighbors made this coordinated effort possible, helping neighbors and the AAA to more easily identify when an older adult is in need.

Reaching Older Adults Through Video Media Releases | Arkansas
The Arkansas Association of Area Agencies on Aging worked with iProv, an Arkansas marketing agency, to produce two COVID-19 video releases illustrating how the Arkansas AAAs are continuing to serve their community during the COVID-19 crisis. Both videos are available for the Arkansas AAAs to post on their social media pages to reach their local communities. The first video details the number of clients the Arkansas AAAs continue to serve through in-home services, meal delivery and other essential services, while the second video offers a message from state association President Luke Mattingly sharing how the AAAs are still delivering essential services in the home, reminding older adults of the importance of staying at home during this crisis and emphasizing that the Arkansas AAAs remain on the frontlines ensuring home and community-based services get the necessary support so older Arkansans can remain at home.

AAA Assists Positive COVID-19 Individuals | Connections Area Agency on Aging | Council Bluffs, IA
The Connections Area Agency on Aging created a Community Interventionist (CI) position, with funding from the county and a Community Health Worker apprenticeship program, to assist first responders when they encountered individuals who needed an intervention but not hospitalization. While the AAA has plans for the CI to hold office hours in different community locations once the need for physical distancing has subsided, the county contacted the AAA about the role the CI could play during the pandemic in a county accommodation plan for those who test positive for COVID-19. The AAA’s CI now serves as a resource for those staying at the hotel the county has designated for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, which helps them safely self-quarantine. The CI is on call 24/7 for anyone who needs access to a quarantine hotel room to help with paperwork, give details on how to check-in, and share what the individual has access to in the quarantine room, including meals and housekeeping. 

Reopening 

Ohio AAAs Develop Phased Approach to Normalizing Operations
Recognizing the need for a phased approach to resuming standard operations, the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio (COA) in Cincinnati took the lead in drafting a three-phase plan following the federal Guidelines for Reopening America for the Ohio AAAs to transition assessment and care management from COVID-19 emergency protocols to standard operating procedures. The plan also leverages learnings from the pandemic while providing a comprehensive plan for normalizing operations. After COA drafted a plan, the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging and all Ohio AAAs reviewed and provided input. The final plan was then submitted to the Ohio state unit on aging.  
 
To see the final plan as well as more examples of how n4a members are working to address reopening physical offices and normalizing agency operations, visit the n4a Peer Resources page.

Normalizing Operations During COVID-19: An Area Agency on Aging Framework | Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging
The Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging worked with its member agencies to develop an operational framework the AAAs could use during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep staff, volunteers, contractors and clients safe. Intended to help Iowa’s AAAs normalize standard operating procedures and practices through a three-phase approach and guided by public health and workplace safety entities with flexibility to meet local needs, the framework focuses on safety guidelines for staff, interfacing with the public, and guidance for specific programs, services practices and contracted services. View the framework on the n4a Peer Resources page.

Work Smart – Stay Safe Plan – COVID-19 | Vermont Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Using guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state of Vermont, the Vermont Association of Area Agencies on Aging developed a plan to help guide the state’s AAAs as they return to office operations and establish a new approach to service and program delivery. Following the plan’s approval by the state unit on aging as an official guide, each AAA is using the plan as a basis for their agency’s plans. The Work Smart – Stay Safe Plan includes considerations around returning to the office and normalizing community-based operations, protecting the health and safety of staff and clients, and delivery of programs and services. View the plan on the n4a Peer Resources page.

Staff Morale  

Boosting Employee Morale and Connection | Care Connection for Aging Services | Warrensburg, MO
When many of Care Connection for Aging Services’ staff working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis expressed that they missed routine office interaction, the AAA’s CEO and senior leadership implemented three activities to help staff feel connected and boost morale. The CEO began sending morning “Just Being Silly” email prompts to help staff connect with others who they normally would be working with in-person through the sharing of recipes, word searches, health information and more. In the afternoon, the staff would then speak via conference call or Zoom to do an activity together, utilizing different ice breakers and information from the AAA’s evidence-based programs, such as Tai Chi and A Matter of Balance. The staff favorite has been Bingo Fridays, where the CEO creates a bingo card around a certain issue, such as stress reduction, value words or Memorial Day. A staff Facebook group was also created for all staff across the 13 counties the AAA serves. Through the Facebook group, the AAA has held spirit week, shared baby and graduation photos and discussed favorite vacation locations. The staff appreciated the work to keep them engaged and connected while physically distant.

Transportation  


Driver Safety for Transportation Programs | Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens | Cedar Bluff, VA
Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens (AASC) developed an innovative do-it-yourself approach to protect its transit and PACE bus drivers during this time. With several older drivers or drivers with underlying medical conditions considering resigning due to fear of contracting COVID-19 while on the job, AASC staff decided to install shields by the driver’s seat on all their transit vehicles. Having this barrier in place has helped drivers feel safer and more protected when riders enter and exit buses. Additional precautions for drivers include new protocols such as having all drivers wear masks and gloves, ensuring that strict cleaning procedures are followed, and limiting the number of riders on the bus at any one time to nine.  

Keeping Transportation Programs Safe | Mountain Empire Older Citizens | Big Stone Gap, VA
Mountain Empire Older Citizens (MEOC), the AAA in Big Stone Gap, VA, is continuing to provide transportation throughout the COVID-19 crisis. MEOC’s Call Center identifies riders who have chronic health conditions, such as dialysis patients and those receiving cancer treatment, enabling MEOC to provide rides to those with high-risk conditions separate from rides for the general public. To keep drivers and riders safe, MEOC is sanitizing its buses at least two times a day and encouraging drivers to sanitize vehicles after transporting riders who display signs of a cough before the next rider is picked up. This content is brought to you through a collaboration of the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC; administered by n4a and Easterseals), and engAGED: The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults (administered by n4a). 

Volunteers

Volunteer Recruitment
From Montana to New York, n4a is hearing a common theme among AAAs looking to fill and expand their volunteer base: look to people who already have background checks. AAAs are reaching out to their communities to recruit new volunteers, including teachers and nonessential county employees who are unable to perform their regular duties—and have already had background checks completed, as an easy way to bring in qualified volunteers while ensuring that valuable services such as home-delivered meals continue to safely reach older adults. For examples of volunteer recruitment flyers developed by AAAs that your agency may find helpful, visit n4a’s members-only peer resources page.

Volunteer Match Program | San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services | San Francisco, CA
The San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services partnered with Shanti Project, a local nonprofit, to launch the COVID-19 Emergency Response Volunteer (CERV) Program. CERV program volunteers provide support to older adults and people with disabilities during the city’s shelter-in-place order through grocery shopping, delivery of medication, pet food and other essentials, dog walking, mail pickup and more. Older adults and people with disabilities in San Francisco can be matched with a volunteer through the CERV program and connected to other services, including food assistance and home care needs, by calling the San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services’ telephone hotline, which has been expanded to be available seven days a week during this time.

Wellness and Reducing Social Isolation

Virtual Caregiver Support | Central Vermont Council on Aging | Barre, VT
The Central Vermont Council on Aging is maintaining its n4a-recognized bi-monthly Caregiver Tea during this time by utilizing the agency's conference call line. Keeping up the tradition of having a "Poems We Love" Caregiver Tea during April’s National Poetry Month, the AAA invited family caregivers to brew a cup of comfort from home and call in to read poems that they’d like to share for the enjoyment of all to uplift, strengthen and sustain their fellow caregivers or just listen to the poems their fellow caregivers decided to share. Following the tea, attendees sent selfies of participation, along with enthusiastic messages of appreciation including, "It was really fun and comforting to hear everyone's voices—thank you!!”

Wellness Tip of the Day Program | Area Agency on Aging District 7 | Rio Grande, OH  
With COVID-19 causing it to postpone its scheduled evidence-based health and wellness classes, the Area Agency on Aging District 7 recently launched a new feature to continue to provide wellness information and resources to clients and the community. This new feature, “Wellness Tip of the Day,” offers wellness tips every Monday and Thursday through the AAA’s Facebook page, web page and email lists to help encourage older adults to remain active and healthy throughout the pandemic.

Telephone Reassurance Partnership | Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington | Spokane, WA
As Washington state became a hot spot for the COVID-19 crisis, Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington (ALTCEW) adapted its Information and Assistance program to also provide telephone reassurance calls. The inception of the Reassurance Program began with a partnership between the AAA and the Washington State University (WSU) College of Nursing, where students were looking for ways to fulfill community practice hours. With the completion of the WSU term, ALTCEW has established a partnership with Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), to offer reassurance calls to the community at large. Older adults can opt to receive pre-scheduled reassurance calls to mitigate isolation and monitor overall well-being. If needs are identified during the calls, a AAA staff member handles the follow up to connect the older adults with additional resources or support. In addition to bringing in the nursing students and RSVP Volunteers, the AAA also deployed their own staff from other projects to help meet demand for the calls. Before launching the program, the AAA identified clients who had previously received options counseling and support but were no longer active, and worked with its close partners to identify others who may be at risk.

Connecting Through Facebook Live | Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging | Waterloo, IA
To connect with older individuals who are feeling isolated while staying safely at home, Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A) developed Facebook Live sessions featured on Mondays and Thursdays. Monday sessions have focused on providing information about utilizing pantry foods to make healthy meals, raising awareness of potential scams during the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighting smart shopping tips to minimize time in the store. Other sessions have provided information on immunity-boosting foods, tips for starting a container garden, and ways to incorporate plant-based proteins into diets. Thursday sessions have been dedicated to Tai Chi. Future Facebook Live sessions being planned by NEI3A will include tours of a farm and ambulance, nail care tips, and a review of talented local musicians.
 
Average views have been approximately 400 viewers per session. Viewers appreciate the tips and look forward to the presentations: “Thanks a lot for offering this valuable information & ideas” and “I love these segments. Thanks for doing these fb lives!”
 
Moving Wellness Programming Virtual | Aroostook Area Agency on Aging | Presque Isle, ME
The Aroostook Area Agency on Aging is finding creative ways to address the social and emotional needs of older adults while following physical distancing guidelines by offering virtual wellness programming. Through a joint venture partnership called Healthy Living for ME with two other Agencies on Aging in Maine (Spectrum Generations and Seniors Plus), the agency is offering two free programs that older adults can complete in the comfort of their own homes until in-person workshops can safely be conducted. The Tai Chi program is being presented by video call through 16-session classes, while free interactive toolkits are being offered for its Better Health Now program. Participants in the Better Health Now program receive weekly support calls with a certified facilitator over the course of the six-week program and learn techniques for action planning, problem solving and decision making. 

Letters to Seniors to Address Social Isolation
AAAs across the country are looking to pen pal programs and letter writing campaigns as a creative way to combat social isolation during the COVID-19 crisis. Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) in Charlottesville, VA is matching its existing volunteers with older adults and caregivers, allowing them to develop a new friendship over email. With JABA’s Friends in Schools Helping (FISH) program currently on hold with schools closed, there are many parents and children who want to continue or initiate the mentoring program with JABA volunteers, offering another way to stay engaged. Before matching, an intake call is held to help connect an older adult or caregiver to a volunteer with common interests. JABA has expanded this program to older adults in assisted living facilities and nursing homes and received a great response. In Ontario, OH, the Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging partnered with the Ontario Local School District to ask students to send letters, cards and drawings to older adults. After learning of the partnership, the Ohio Highway Patrol then stepped in to help with hand delivering the letter to nursing homes in the community. In Chambersburg, PA, the Franklin County Area Agency on Aging is working with the United Way of Franklin County on a Pen Pals for Seniors program. This new program invites members of the community to send notes, poems, stories and drawings to the Franklin County AAA, with the AAA staff delivering the letters to older adults in the community facing increased social isolation.

Meeting the Needs of Caregivers Virtually  
With many informal and family caregivers finding themselves more isolated, stressed and confused during this crisis, Area Agencies on Aging around the country are launching new virtual caregiver support programs. In Rio Grande, OH, the Area Agency on Aging District 7 launched a new monthly Caregiver Telephone Support Group to bring caregivers together for support, education, resources and connection. In Boulder, CO, the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging took a multimedia approach for its new four-week, eight-hour virtual caregiver program, offering video clips, art, poetry, self-reflection and discussion via video conferencing to provide participants with tools to help ensure they thrive during their caregiving journey. 

Helping Older Adults Stay Sharp During COVID-19 | Advantage Aging Solutions | Tallahassee, FL
Advantage Aging Solutions, the Area Agency on Aging for North Florida, joined forces with longtime partner Elder Care Services to help older adults in the community stay active—both physically and mentally—throughout the COVID-19 crisis and combat social isolation that comes about from physical distancing. To complement opportunities offered for social interaction online, the AAA and Elder Care Services wanted to offer hands-on activities that allow the hands, mind and body to work together and help older adults stay sharp in their activities of daily living. Thanks to more than $3,000 in donations from the community, the two agencies are compiling goody bags filled with hands-on activities like painting and puzzles and will be delivering the bags to 500 older adults in their community.

Offering Evidence-Based Programming Virtually | Centralina Area Agency on Aging | Charlotte, NC
When North Carolina first began considering a stay-at-home order at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the Centralina Area Agency on Aging cancelled all in-person workshops and began exploring ways it could provide evidence-based programs virtually. The AAA partnered with the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness and the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services to offer virtual Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) through the Self-Management Resource Center’s CDSMP Tool Kit Plus. Learn more about the steps the Centralina AAA took to implement and launch this virtual program here.

Virtual Senior Center Programming | Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities | Annapolis, MD
Following the closure of seven senior centers in response to COVID-19, the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities developed and launched a new series intended to keep senior center participants and the broader community engaged while practicing physical distancing. The new series, titled Remote Online Virtual Education Resources for Seniors (R.O.V.E.R.S.), offers a daily message, activities and virtual socialization to keep older adults safe, connected and informed. Community members can participate in online exercise classes, art classes, crafts, line dancing, music and history lessons through R.O.V.E.R.S. videos shared on the AAA’s website, Facebook and Twitter. The videos are also broadcast on Anne Arundel television channels.

Virtual Wellness Group | Eastern Area Agency on Aging | Brewer, ME
To combat the negative effects of social isolation and help keep older adults active in their homes, the Eastern Area Agency on Aging launched a new Wellness Group that offers a series of online exercise classes such as classes focused on yoga, meditation and falls prevention through daily Facebook Live presentations. The instructors keep the classes lighthearted and fun and participants are able to hold conversations with others in the classes, helping them feel connected to others while staying active during the COVID-19 crisis.

Living Healthy at Home | Piedmont Triad Regional Council Area Agency on Aging | Kernersville, NC
Recognizing the importance of staying healthy at home while practicing physical distancing, the Piedmont Triad Regional Council Area Agency on Aging (PTRC AAA) modified its Living Healthy with Chronic Conditions evidence-based program, which typically is offered in person and in community settings, to be offered through a mailed toolkit and weekly phone calls. The program, called Living Healthy at Home, focuses on healthy eating, appropriate use of medication, being active and developing communication skills to help participants take charge of their health and make connections from home. Offered at no cost to consumers at several different times and days, the phone calls are held in small groups of four participants and one trained facilitator for an hour once a week for six weeks to walk participants through the toolkit. The mailed toolkit includes a book for the program, a relaxation CD, an exercise CD and a self-test to determine focus area.

Virtual Art Show | Area Agency on Aging District 7 | Rio Grande, OH
Given concerns around COVID-19, the Area Agency on Aging District 7 (AAA7) made the difficult decision to cancel its annual in-person Senior Citizens Art Show. To provide an opportunity for participants to showcase their work, the AAA7 developed a virtual way for older adults in the community to share their artwork, poems or essays. The virtual showcase will be featured on the agency’s website throughout the month of July, allowing the community’s older adults to participate and receive recognition of their work, and for community members to view and enjoy artwork and written work created by older adults within the community despite COVID-19. 

Good Memories Choir Moves Virtual | AgeGuide | Lombard, IL
The Good Memories Choir, run by AgeGuide (the Area Agency on Aging for Northeastern Illinois) and the Sounds Good Choir, creates a space for people in AgeGuide’s service area living with early-stage memory loss to sing familiar songs that they love with their care partners through structured weekly rehearsals. The Good Memories Choir provides a fun, upbeat community to those living with Alzheimer's or another dementia and an opportunity to make a new friend—something AgeGuide knew needed to continue in some way. To reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 during in-person choir practices, AgeGuide turned to Zoom to ensure singers could participate in the choir during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rehearsals for Good Memories Choir: Summer Rocks 2020 kicked off June 18 and will run weekly through August 6 via a dedicated Zoom rehearsal room with password access, allowing singers and their care partners to safely participate in the rehearsals. The eight-week program will culminate in a virtual concert performance at AgeGuide’s 25th Annual Senior Lifestyle Expo on August 18.   

Virtual Appreciation for Advisory Council Members | Seattle-King County Aging & Disability Services | Seattle, WA
Given limitations on in-person gatherings, Seattle-King County Aging & Disability Services transitioned its monthly Aging & Disability Services Advisory Council meetings to a virtual platform. For the May meeting, where the dedication and contributions of the Advisory Council members are typically recognized with cake and a reading of Older Americans Month proclamations, staff brainstormed another way to thank the Advisory Council members for their work while maintaining proper physical distancing. Staff mailed an appreciation card and chocolate to Advisory Council members in advance of the virtual meeting, and the meeting kicked off with a PowerPoint to acknowledge and pay tribute to each Advisory Council member.

Addressing Social Isolation of Long-Term Care Facility Residents | Area 1 Agency on Aging | Eureka, CA
To address the social isolation residents in local long-term care facilities were experiencing due to new rules limiting visitors in response to COVID-19, the Area 1 Agency on Aging (A1AA) Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) organized an outreach campaign. Staff used social media to recruit community members to mail cards with messages of encouragement to the AAA, which then delivered the correspondence to residents of local long-term care facilities. Within weeks, the A1AA LTCOP received approximately 2,000 cards, art pieces and drawings from states all over the country, from Hawaii to Kentucky. 

The Friendship Network | Midland Area Agency on Aging | Hastings, NE
The Midland Area Agency on Aging has collaborated with the Heartland Disaster Recovery Group to support older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic through a new program called the Friendship Network. With many older adults experiencing social isolation and needing assistance with essential supplies like groceries and medications, the Friendship Network is connecting socially distanced older adults with volunteers. The volunteers make phone calls or porch visits for companionship, assist with grocery delivery or medication pickup, or serve as a pen pal, all while adhering to social distancing guidelines.  

Robotic Pets to Reduce Social Isolation | New York, Florida
With the results of a 2019 pilot test conducted in New York state showing that robotic pets help decrease social isolation among older adults living at home, the New York Aging Network turned to robotic pets as a tool to help combat social isolation, loneliness and depression resulting from the need to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York state association of AAAs (Association on Aging in New York, or AgingNY), New York State Office for the Aging and Ageless Innovation, a robotic pet manufacturer, joined forces to distribute more than 1,100 robotic Joy for All Companion Pets to older adults in New York most at-risk for social isolation. The partnership allowed the New York AAAs to purchase robotic cats and dogs at a discounted rate and distribute them to older adults who would most benefit from the companionship the robotic pets provide.
 
The robotic pets allow socially isolated older adults to receive the positive benefits they would similarly receive from a live cat or dog, without needing to worry about the cost of food or vet bills. In Florida, the state’s Aging Network is also providing robotic pets to socially isolated older adults and older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias through a partnership with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and Ageless Innovation.

Online Medicare Classes | Boulder County Area Agency on Aging | Boulder, CO
To get a head start on the Medicare Open Enrollment season, the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging’s Medicare Counseling program launched free live virtual Medicare Basics Classes to provide important information about Medicare to older adults getting ready to apply for Medicare. The classes covered Medicare basics, including when and how to enroll, the different parts of Medicare, what is and is not covered, Medicare fraud and other important information. The AAA offered three different courses throughout the month of June where participants could join by computer, tablet or phone.

For more examples of how organizations are addressing the increased social isolation of older adults due to COVID-19, visit engAGED: The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults (administered by n4a). 

Working with Health Care

Adapting Care Transitions Amidst Pandemic | Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio | Cincinnati, OH
The Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio (COA) is actively responding to the COVID-19 crisis by adapting its CCTP model, Fast Track Home, to better support patients leaving hospitals and skilled nursing facilities as well as hospitals that are encountering a surge in demand. Adaptations to the Fast Track Home model include broadening the process to encompass all COA programs; changing the referral and coaching model to include telephonic protocols and an intake queue; ramping up capacity; and adapting provider capacity and service delivery protocols.
 
Learn more about how COA is adapting its Fast Track Home program to respond to the changing needs of older adults and people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis here.

Emergency Medication Delivery Policy | Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens | Cedar Bluff, VA
After clients began reaching out to Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens (AASC) with concerns about visiting pharmacies to pick up their prescriptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, AASC staff brainstormed ways they might be able to help older adults who live in rural areas where pharmacies may not deliver. After talking with pharmacies AASC had existing relationships with, AASC staff developed an emergency medication delivery policy that allows AASC staff to pick up a client’s prescription from the pharmacy and deliver it to the older adult’s home following a client request. Learn more about how AASC developed and implemented an emergency medication delivery policy.

Note: n4a is not endorsing any of the tools or strategies found on this page. Have resources from your agency that you would like to feature? Send them to info@n4a.org