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. 

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.

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.

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.


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.


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). 


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.


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 its partnership with Healthy Living for ME, 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.

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.

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