Utilizing Community Partnerships to Deliver Service
COVID-19 has presented many challenges with delivering service to communities throughout the country. The counties in New York State recognized early on that forming partnerships within their communities would make it possible to continue providing quality of life services to their most vulnerable populations.
Early on, we anticipated the need to deliver basic essentials and did not want to worry about payment, exchanging of money, or using up resources like food pantries that unemployed families in the county may need." says Cathy Mackay, Director.
Cattaraugus County Office of Aging applied for and received several grants that enabled them to provide groceries, household items, pet supplies and other basic necessities free of charge to seniors across the county out of their central kitchen working with their GPO and vendors like HPSI, SYSCO, US Foods, Curtze, etc. The Cattaraugus County Office for the Aging received grants through local/regional COVID-19 funds, foundations, MOWAA, and several other local partners.
Cattaraugus County Office of Aging established a wellness program to fight isolation early on. They have reassigned RSVP volunteers to take on duties they can now do from their homes. Volunteers send hand-written pen-pal letters every week, make daily friendly assurance phone calls, and make homemade video messages from local friends and organizations. They also use grant money to deliver special treats regularly to create positive mental wellness. Gardening kits, Easter candies, Mother's Day plants, Joy for All Pets, books, puzzles, and activities are some of the delivered items. They formed a committee early on just to organize these weekly messages and special gifts, deliveries, and mailings.
Cattaraugus County Department of Aging purchased sewing machines from a local Singer store and fabric so county jail inmates could make fabric masks. The volunteers continue to make hundreds of masks daily which are donated to first responders and essential workers.
"AgingNY is proud of the incredible work being done by Cattaragus County Office for the Aging." says Becky Preve, Executive Director for the Association on Aging in New York. "The innovations and services being provided during the pandemic provide health and safety for the most vulnerable population."
Putnam Office for Senior Resources Gets Innovative
BREWSTER, NY— Seniors have been singled out as “vulnerable” since the COVID-19 outbreak first began. The physical health of older Americans necessarily became a priority, but as the benefits of staying at home are obvious, so are the troubling social and emotional effects of isolation. Every May, the national Administration for Community Living brings into the spotlight the observance of Older Americans Month. The theme for 2020 is "Make Your Mark," paying tribute to the countless contributions seniors have made in their communities, and invites communities, in turn, to pay it forward by supporting the health and well being of the older generation.
“The connections created by our senior programs are truly a bright spot during this difficult time. We know our seniors are anxiously waiting to be able to reconnect in person at their local centers. The staff at our Office for Senior Resources have designed and implemented wonderful ways to serve the community. From fresh, home-delivered meals to connecting seniors with pen-pal groups in their local towns, we are supporting our seniors in ways we may never have imagined before,” says Putnam County Executive, MaryEllen Odell.
“Many of us are counting down the days until we will again be able to visit with the seniors in our lives,” says Michael Cunningham, Director of Putnam County’s Office for Senior Resources (OSR). “The reality is, we aren’t sure yet when our doors will safely reopen— but that uncertainty drove us to create and implement innovative program offerings for all Putnam seniors using both voice and video conference calling tools.”
All seniors in Putnam, whether or not they have previously participated in a senior center program are encouraged to call the OSR. Their staff, currently working remotely, will assist in identifying programs that suit both the callers’ needs and their interests.
“It is important to remember that social distancing does not have to mean isolation, especially for seniors. Loneliness is bad for your health, but you don’t have to face the uncertainties alone. It is our goal to support seniors and offer them various ways to connect with one another, connect with professionals and connect with their larger community all while staying safe at home,” adds Michael Cunningham.
“The response to our one-on-one wellness calls and remote group events such as ‘Coffee and Conversation,’ have been very positive,” continues Michael Cunningham. Other popular programs include: Book Club meetings, Brain Fitness Activity Groups, Zoom Social Dancing, Strength and Balance Exercise and Caregiver Support Groups. TeleBingo and other new programs are being rolled out as well.
An innovative program called robotic pet companionship is one of the many new offerings from OSR. Robotic pets look, sound and feel like real pets. This alternative form of pet therapy has been proven to enhance the well-being, sense of purpose and quality of life of individuals living with dementia. During COVID-19, these robotic pets are being utilized to address the emotional challenges that often accompany social distancing. To learn more about the programs offered visit putnamcountyny.com/OSR or call 845-808-1700.
Putnam County Office for Senior Resources is responsible for stimulating, promoting, coordinating and administering local programs and services for older Putnam County residents. In carrying out this responsibility, the Office for Senior Resources’ primary emphasis is on the development of long-term care programs and services necessary to meet the long term care needs of Putnam County’s elderly and to support informal caregivers.
The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services, provided directly and through collaboration, include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our County website at www.putnamcountyny.com/coronavirus; or visit our social media sites @PutnamHealthNY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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I would like to take an opportunity to introduce myself in my new role as Executive Director at the Association on Aging in New York. I recently joined the team here, after being a local Area Agency on Aging Director in rural northern New York. To say that the past few months have been a whirlwind is an understatement, and as we navigate a new landscape, I am blessed to be part of such an amazing, dedicated network.
The 59 Area Agencies on Aging, and the over 1,200 subcontracts for services provides health, safety, wellness, and support to hundreds of thousands of older New Yorkers and their families on a daily basis. These services were established over 4 decades ago, and are a trusted entity for a wide variety of programs that allow individuals to remain in their own homes, with dignity and autonomy. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York, this network instantly adapted their delivery model, and absorbed a 50% increase in demand for services. Additionally, as congregate sites, social adult day programs, and administrative offices closed, you and your contractors were nimble, and ensured services would continue. Individuals whom did not have access to food, prescriptions, transportation etc were served without interruption. Stories from across the state show the dedication and resilience of your staff, volunteers, and community members. Partnerships were leveraged, staff stayed late and came in early, and older residents were protected. Many of you participated in the animatronic pet project, as you acknowledged the impact of social isolation on the older population. People were protected from financial exploitation, as they had a trusted source of information to turn to. The phone calls to isolated individuals are the highlight of the day to many, and provide a vital health and safety check. These services continue to be paramount in ensuring the well-being of the individuals and families you serve.
In closing, I would like to extend my heartfelt thank you, and admiration for your work and dedication for the residents of New York. Your stories and successes are the blueprint for states that are going to be facing an increase in infections over the next few months. It has been said many times, that crisis shows the best and worst of society. As always, our network continues to be an example of the best.