For millions of older adults and adults with disabilities in California, social isolation can be a challenge even when all is well. Now months into the statewide Emergency Stay at Home Order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, older and vulnerable adults face a new level of isolation and decreased access to essential services. Given the increased risk of infection in addition to the mobility challenges that some older adults and adults with disabilities face, agencies and organizations are navigating new logistical considerations while expanding their reach to a growing number of individuals.
Creative initiatives and strategic partnerships are emerging at the community, city, state, and federal levels to meet the needs of those who are among those most vulnerable to the virus and the detrimental health impacts stemming from social isolation.
California’s governor rolled out the statewide initiative, Stay Home. Save Lives. Check In, in late March soon after the Shelter in Place order. This effort calls on friends, families, and neighbors to support older adults facing social isolation through friendly wellness checks. The program is one of several that calls on community members as a first line of support to older and vulnerable adults. Others include the California Volunteer’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaign and Listos California’s Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) program.
In San Francisco, city agencies are teaming up with community-based service providers to leverage a growing volunteer base to keep older and vulnerable adults connected. The program, COVID Emergency Response Volunteer (CERV) program, was created in partnership among the City of San Francisco’s Department of Disability and Aging Services (DAS), the Shanti Project, and Mon Ami, and utilizes a smartphone app to facilitate volunteers connecting to older and vulnerable adults. They provide friendly check-ins and/or one-time or occasional support with the delivery of groceries and medications, dog-walking, and mail pickup.
The State of California and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently announced a strategic partnership to expand upon essential services organizations like Meals On Wheels, which delivers daily meals to homebound residents. The program aims to deliver three meals a day to California seniors using restaurants and restaurant workers to support meal preparation and delivery. While details are forthcoming, this program will not only support the essential nutritional needs of a vulnerable population, but also will provide economic relief to the restaurant industry and its workers.
The ongoing emergence of collaboration across all levels of government, the social sector, and individual community members will be crucial to weathering this storm and ensuring that the needs of older and vulnerable adults are addressed. If you have creative ideas to support older adults and adults with disabilities through COVID-19, RDA can help you articulate, plan, fund, implement, and evaluate them.