by Tianna G. Hansen
No group has been arguably more affected by this pandemic than our seniors.
The past year has shown us that social connection is one of the paramount pillars of community. At our human core, connecting with others helps us thrive.
Senior Centers have now reopened to the public, hosting in-person gatherings and activities again. It’s a joyous occasion to have people join together after many months spent isolated and apart.
Throughout the pandemic, Bucks County Area Agency on Aging has stepped in to ensure seniors across the county are still receiving the care they need.
“Even though Centers were closed for public gatherings, they continued reaching out to their members and supporting the community,” says Bill McTigue, of the Bucks County Area Agency on Aging (BCAAA). “At the start of the pandemic, senior centers contacted members via phone to check in with them, which was no small task.”
Many senior centers are run on very small staff (often a manager, kitchen manager and sometimes an assistant who helps with the books), with several hundred members.
“They’d have to make 100 to 200 calls every week just to reach everyone in a month.”
The congregate meal program has also returned, implemented through local senior Centers and offering seniors the opportunity to dine together once more. This program offers in-home meals when Centers operate at full capacity. Everyone who is 60 years and older can get a free lunch – as long as they sign up a week in advance.
“When the congregate meal program was closed to the public, we still offered grab-and-go meals,” Bill says. “We were able to get the normal hot meals in frozen form so people could come pick them up.”
Now, senior centers are transitioning back to regular practice alongside the rest of the community. Many have undergone facility improvements to facilitate the reopening process, expanding rooms and more to accommodate the level of activities they can safely offer.
Through the Agency, virtual programs such as yoga and Tai Chi have been offered to seniors. Each Center hosts a schedule of in-person and virtual activities, which can be found listed on their websites or by contacting them directly.
“We hope to continue offering a variety of virtual activities such as Chair Yoga,” says Bill.
The BCAAA also ran a pilot program throughout the pandemic called the Senior Connect Program, which helped provide seniors the ability to connect with loved ones and society through teaching and helping to provide them with technology, where possible.
Three objectives of this program were to reach the community and see who needed computer equipment, try to get them a tablet and connected to the Internet if possible, and offer instruction in how to use it.
“We’re currently hoping to get more funding to continue expanding this program,” Bill says.
A message for our seniors: You are not alone, no matter what you have endured. Please reach out if you or a loved one is in need of support or assistance.
Bill encourages loved ones to check on seniors who may be in need or lonely.
“Never overlook the importance and value of family and friends looking out for each other.”
For those who are still in need of a vaccine, please contact the Agency at 267-880-5700 or Bucks County Department of Health for information on where to get a local vaccine.
We are on our way as a community to being together again, joining as family and friends in a safe manner and finding ways to connect once more.