Oswego County Office for the Aging director navigates area seniors through the uncertainty of global pandemic
By Lou Sorendo
Q.: Among the many services that the Oswego County Office for the Aging provides for seniors, which ones have become more in demand as a result of COVID-19?
A.: Food and home-delivered meals are the most demanded service. Seniors are one of the most vulnerable populations that COVID-19 strikes. Seniors have been told to remain socially distanced and they are scared. They do not want to go into stores and potentially expose themselves. In addition to the meals, many people have found it hard to locate toilet paper to purchase. As a measure to keep our participants safe, and help provide needed items, Office for the Aging secured cases of toilet paper and all home-delivered meal participants were provided with rolls of toilet paper. We were also able to secure hand sanitizer and face masks to provide to all participants.
Q.: We know the Office for the Aging offers a “friendly call” service, providing telephone reassurance to seniors who live alone or who may feel isolated and vulnerable. Has this service been ramped up to help seniors who have been socially isolated due to COVID-19?
A.: Yes, Oswego County Legislator Thomas Drumm worked with the Oswego County Board of Elections to obtain a listing of Oswego County registered voters, aged 70 through 90-plus. The list is quite extensive, but the Office for the Aging as well as other county department staff have been calling seniors to check in. They are asked if they have family and friend supports, if they need food or other items, and if they have questions about COVID-19. They are provided with phone numbers if needed, referred to programs that can help and just provided a warm voice to let them know we are here for them.
Q.: Office for the Aging has been active in distributing facemasks to senior housing sites and home-delivered meals clients. How essential is it to provide this level of care to the elderly in our area?
A.: I think this is essential to help keep our seniors safe. As the county begins to re-open, people will be out more and if we are not all following guidelines, COVID-19 will be back and our seniors will be a target. By providing them a measure of safety with a face mask, we are helping to ensure their future health.
Q.: What do you feel have been the most significant challenges facing area seniors while they deal with COVID-19 and all of its ramifications?
A.: One of the most significant challenges is the increased isolationism. To keep safe, family members and neighbors are not stopping by to chat. Groceries are left at the door and then there is a retreat. For many, the home-delivered meal driver in the past was the only contact they received. They made friends and joked around. With the new process, meals are left on door handles, the driver knocks on the door and then returns to their car. There is very limited interaction, and this is a major concern regarding seniors’ mental health. Office for the Aging encourages everyone to participate in the “Take 5 for New York” initiative. Residents are encouraged to take five minutes in their day to call someone who may be alone and feeling isolated, whether it is a family member or friend, co-worker or neighbor. A call, a text, or a wave through the window can make all the difference for someone feeling isolated. The OFA was also lucky enough to obtain and distribute “Joy for All” robotic cats and dogs to seniors. While it may sound odd, these animals bring so much joy to isolated seniors and there is no feeding or clean up required.