HoCo Seniors Kept Fed, Engaged During Coronavirus Outbreak

Kristin Danley-Greiner

This article originally appeared on the Columbia Patch

HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Many senior citizens in Howard County enjoy socializing at their local senior center each week, enjoying mealtime together and being in physical contact with others. But the new coronavirus has quashed all of that, especially since senior citizens fall into the high-risk category for contracting the new coronavirus and must stay at least 6 feet away from others.

In Howard County:

  • DCRS 50+ Centers are closed until further notice
  • Group programs, events and activities are suspended until further notice
  • Home visits and facility-based services for older adults, children and families are suspended until further notice
  • Howard County MultiService Center is available by phone and by appointment only; no walk-ins until further notice
  • Loan Closet is closed to the public; no in-person appointments
  • Scheduled meal services are temporarily suspended and resources for emergent food needs can be obtained through Maryland Access Point
  • Tax preparation programs at 50+ centers and the MultiService Center are postponed through March 31

Jarrett Carter with the Howard County Office on Aging and Independence told Patch that DCRS has established a "grab-n-go" meal distribution for residents who usually participate in the department's 50+ Centers congregate meal program.

"These are residents who have been assessed and identified for certain nutrition risks. We contacted all of these individuals by phone and distributed 50 meal kits with five meals each starting March 26 for a total of 250 meals distributed. The meals were distributed at the Ellicott City 50+ Center and the Longwood Senior Building," Carter told Patch. "As we expect an increase in requests for meals, we are planning to make the program available on a weekly basis. Neighbor Ride has partnered with our Office on Aging and Independence to deliver meals to those individuals who are not able to get to distribution sites."

Seniors in Howard County also can stay active with fitness classes broadcast for seniors.

"Last week, one of our exercise coordinators debuted a live Power class using the Zoom meeting platform for members of our 50+ fitness programs. Michelle Rosenfeld sent an email blast with the details and it attracted 33 people on its first day, including some individuals who were out of town. This engagement is particularly unique because it is also providing some of our members with tutorials on how to download mobile apps and how to use their phone for greater interactivity - all while remaining safe and physically active at home," Carter said. "Two daily live workouts are now being offered for up to 100 participants."

Howard County seniors also are receiving phone calls through its Connections and Kindred Spirits programs on a weekly basis to check on their well-being, which helps them feel tied to someone when isolated due to the pandemic.

"Along with these calls, we are promoting similar senior call-check resources that are being offered by the state's office of aging, and we are emailing caregivers with activity ideas for seniors who may not be able to attend social programming during the day," Carter said.

For more information, call 410-313-6410 or email at aging@howardcountymd.gov.

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