“Senior centers, nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country have launched pen-pal programs to help older adults battle social isolation created by the coronavirus.”
by Kate Elizabeth Queram
“As the coronavirus spread toward New Hampshire and communities began advising residents to isolate at home, Rich Vanderweit began brainstorming.
Vanderweit, an activity aide at Sullivan County Health Care in Unity, N.H., was concerned about the effects that social isolation would have on the nursing and rehab facility’s 135 residents. It’s a community-driven home, he said, where visitors come to see one person and end up chatting at length with a dozen others—so when the facility went on lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, he worried that the seniors would feel abandoned.
“’And the idea just came to me—a pen-pal program,’ he said.”
“Human beings are social by nature, and high-quality social relationships are vital for health and well-being. Like many other social determinants of health, however, social isolation (an objective lack of social contact with others) and loneliness (the subjective feeling of being isolated) are significant yet underappreciated public health risks. Social isolation and loneliness are associated with poor physical and mental health outcomes, including higher rates of mortality, depression, and cognitive decline. Recent research documents the high prevalence of social isolation and loneliness among older adults. For example, data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study found that 24 percent of
community-dwelling older adults are considered socially isolated, and a 2018 survey by the AARP Foundation found that more than one-third (35 percent) of adults aged 45 and older are lonely. Additionally, a 2018 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 22 percent of adults in the United States say they ‘often or always feel lonely, feel that they lack companionship, feel left out, or feel isolated from others.’
“This report presents a comprehensive review of the impacts of social isolation and loneliness on mortality and morbidity, the risk factors for social isolation and loneliness, the mechanisms by which social isolation and loneliness impact health, the factors that affect those mechanisms, and the ways in which researchers measure social isolation and loneliness and their resultant impacts on health.
“Furthermore, the committee discusses the role of the health care system in addressing these issues, the ways in which we can better educate and train our health care workforce, and which interventions (particularly for the clinical setting) show the most promise. Finally, the committee discusses general principles of dissemination and implementation that will be important for translating research into practice, especially as the evidence base for effective interventions continues to flourish.”
Click here to download the full report: Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults
“Dell Kaplan, 81, talks on her phone if front of her home in Plano, Texas Friday, May 15, 2020. For Kaplan, the offer to get calls from a stranger just to chat while staying home during the coronavirus pandemic was immediately appealing. “It gets pretty lonely here by yourself,” said Kaplan, a suburban Dallas resident who has been missing meals out with friends, family get-togethers and going to classes at a nearby college. The program being offered by the city of Plano is among those that have popped up across the U.S. during the pandemic to help older adults with a simple offer to engage in small talk.” (AP Photo/LM Otero)
by Janie Stengle
“DALLAS (AP) — For 81-year-old Dell Kaplan, the offer to get calls from a stranger just to chat while staying home during the coronavirus pandemic was immediately appealing.
“’It gets pretty lonely here by yourself,’ said Kaplan, a suburban Dallas resident who has been missing meals out with friends, family get-togethers and going to classes at a nearby college.
“The program being offered by the city of Plano is among those that have popped up across the U.S. during the pandemic to help older adults with a simple offer to engage in small talk.
“‘It’s really just to give them a social outlet that they might not have otherwise,’ said Holly Ryckman, a library support supervisor who is among about 15 staffers from several city departments in Plano who together have been making about 50 calls a week starting in April.
“Brent Bloechle, a library manager who helped organize the program, said the city plans to keep it up through at least mid-summer, and maybe permanently.”
Read this AP article in its entirety; click here.
“Virtual Connections” is “The hub for teams, individuals, senior living residents and families to access free activity and entertainment resources.”
Juniper Communities, operates senior living communities in New Jersey, Colorado and Pennsylvania — there are Juniper Village facilities in Lancaster County and in Lebanon County. Fortunately, both are Link to Aging and Disability Resources partners.
After group activities in their facilities were canceled, Juniper Communities launched a centralized website for seniors to find digital resources curated from across the internet. Check out the Virtual Connections platform: https://www.slvirtual.com/
Virtual Connections is “The hub for teams, individuals, senior living residents and families to access free activity and entertainment resources. As individuals and communities practice ‘stay at home’ and no-visitor access as a response to COVID-19, the leaders at Juniper Communities and LTC REIT have gathered these resources for all to enjoy!”
Department of Aging Receives $3 Million to Support Aging and Disability Resource Centers during Pandemic
Harrisburg, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC) Office has been awarded $3 million from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living to support efforts to mitigate and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ADRC, also known as the PA Link to Aging and Disability Resources, is a statewide program that provides information and referral services to older adults and individuals with disabilities. This program helps individuals with activities of daily living by connecting them with medical and non-medical supports and services. Consumers, family members, caregivers and providers, can contact the PA Link through the helpline,1-800-753-8827, or here.
“During COVID-19, being able to obtain information and access support services is a vital concern for older adults, persons with disabilities and their caregivers,” said Aging Secretary Robert Torres. “The PA Link provides seamless connection to a vast array of services, supports and person-centered counseling delivered in local communities throughout the Commonwealth. This federal funding will help PA Link boost capacity and improve connectivity to serve consumers during this pandemic and beyond.”
The PA Link will use the grant funds to administer the following activities:
Virtual Management of ADRC Access Functions: Implement e-services for PA Link staff and partners to improve business operations related to accessing PA Link programs.
Care Transition Services: Assist those most at risk of COVID-19 who are seeking transitional support from hospital or nursing home to a home setting.
Food Order and Delivery: Collaborate with local grocery stores, restaurants and/or online/mobile food order and delivery services to provide delivered groceries and food.
Assistive Technology: Help older adults, individuals with disabilities, caregivers and care providers learn how to use telehealth technologies to provide and receive needed services. The Department will partner with the Assistive Technology Act program to provide assistive technology assessments, devices and training.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Provide PPE for community partners to ensure in-home supports can be maintained safely.
Marketing of PA Link Helpline and Outreach: Increase public awareness of the PA Link helpline,1-800-753-8827.
Reduce Social Isolation: Provide individuals with the ability to request periodic check-in calls by trained staff and increase awareness of low-cost programs that connect individuals through broadband and telecommunication equipment.
Information and Counseling Services: Increase the capacity of the PA Link network partners to respond to requests from individuals in need of resource information, assistance with referrals and person-centered counseling.
Visit the PA Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage here for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.
Learn more about the various programs offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging here.
SOURCE: news release
Fizikaflex Helps Seniors Stay Healthy and Active | Sign up for a free 3 month subscription to Fizikaflex.
This morning, Martha Harris, founder and CEO of Fizika Group was the cross-training presenter with the Lebanon County Link to Aging and Disability Resources partner network. In a Zoom meeting, she shared an important story about fitness, diet and healthy habits Click here to view it) that resonated with everyone.
Martha’s now got to meet partners in all three of the counties in Service Area 13 as she’s presented at cross-training meetings for each county.
She’s also making a very special offer to persons in Berks-Lancaster & Lebanon Counties; an offer of a free three month subscription to Fizikaflex.
Read the article below for a lot more information about Fizikaflex.
“Fizika Group, LLC, a social enterprise based in Lancaster, today announced the release of Fizikaflex™ a new digital health platform designed to help seniors stay healthy and active as they age.
“Fizikaflex is an attractive, secure web-based application that enables seniors to record their daily health inputs, such as exercise and nutrition, document progress in reaching personal health goals, and compare their results with peers. User preferences enable synchronization with FitBit™ for daily step count, and dietary preferences based on eating restrictions.
“‘The need for Fizikaflex is evident in the rapid growth of dementia and other forms of brain diseases worldwide. While there is no known cure, scientists know that lifestyle choices can influence the risk factors that contribute to brain disease,’ said Martha Harris, Founder and CEO of Fizika Group. ‘Our goal in creating Fizikaflex is to provide a simple, easy to use tool that can motivate and inform seniors and the communities in which they live, to make healthy habits habit forming.’
“Fizikaflex is designed for use by senior living communities and affordable housing complexes that want to improve the health and wellbeing of residents. No software installation is required.” Continue reading this article, click here.
Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Pennsylvania Council on Aging (PCoA) today released the findings of a statewide survey conducted by PCoA to assess the status, needs and interests of older adults during the COVID-19 outbreak. The survey inquired about food access, public risk factors, and social connection.
The brief online survey, conducted during the first week of April in both English and Spanish, drew more than 3,700 responses from older adults across Pennsylvania. The survey included questions on how often the older adult communicates with people outside their home, technologies they are using to connect, how often they are leaving their home during this pandemic and their primary reasons for doing so.
COVID-19 is a virus that vastly and disproportionately affects older adults. According to the CDC, older adults are much more at risk of fatality. Eight out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults aged 65 and older. In Pennsylvania, the majority of COVID-19-related hospitalizations are of people aged 65 and older.
“The PCoA determined that there was an immediate need to better understand the landscape that older adults in Pennsylvania are navigating during this crisis,” said PCoA Executive Director Faith Haeussler. “The overwhelming response we received to the survey provides a wealth of insights into their living situations, how they’re getting their needs met, what types of risks they’re taking, what types of activities matter most to them, how connected or isolated they feel, and where they could use some extra help.”
Those aged 60-80 made up 81% of the survey respondents. Those who are over the age of 80 made up 17%. This mirrors the Pennsylvania population of older adults, according to the US Census.
Some of the major findings are:
- Older adults, on average, are going out almost twice weekly to get groceries.
- Older adults are also going to the pharmacy at high numbers, even though almost all pharmacies have offered delivery and drive-through options for shopping and prescription-filling.
- Adults aged 85 and older reported that senior centers were the third source they relied on for their community connection. The first two were family and religious institutions.
- Almost 6% of the “oldest” older adults (91 years and older) reported that they still attended religious events.
- Fewer than 20% of the “oldest” older adults have access to smartphones, but more than 20% stated that they were interested in virtual connections.
The survey revealed differences among age groups and rural and urban settings in how older adults connect with their communities, how they access food, and what technologies they use to stay connected. Several themes emerged highlighting areas where older adults can be supported during this pandemic and in the future. Some of these themes and related recommendations include:
- Evaluating how older adults can access food more safely
- Implementing services and support to maintain communication with older adults and minimize social isolation
- Increasing access to virtual connectivity across the commonwealth for older adults
“We’re very excited about this survey and its potential applications,” said PCoA Board Chair Mickey Flynn. “In addition to providing practical recommendations for helping older adults meet their needs during the COVID-19 emergency, the PCoA views the data collected as a rich resource for continued planning for services for older adults now and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The Wolf Administration and the Department of Aging are keenly aware that food access, community connections and social isolation have and will continue to be issues affecting older adults’ well-being and quality of life,” said Aging Secretary Robert Torres. “The responses drawn by this survey, in real time during this pandemic, present an opportunity for us to deepen our collective understanding of these major issues and engage with partners to develop thoughtful, creative and effective solutions.”
The Pennsylvania Council on Aging serves as an advocate for older individuals and advises the Governor and the Department of Aging on planning, coordination, and delivery of services to older individuals. The Council’s 21 volunteer members, the majority of whom are required to be age 60 or older, are nominated by the Governor and approved by the Senate. Members of the Council also serve as chairpersons for five regional councils totaling 65 volunteers, which meet quarterly. These regional councils gather information and insights on local needs and service delivery and report their findings to the Council. They also serve as resources for research and community outreach efforts.
The full report can be accessed here.
Visit the PA Department of Health’s dedicated coronavirus webpage here for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s mission is to promote independence, purpose and wellbeing in the lives of older adults through advocacy, service and protection while creating a commonwealth where older adults are embraced and empowered to live and age with dignity and respect. The Department represents Pennsylvania’s rapidly growing older population, currently more than 3 million people age 60 and over, and oversees an array of services and support programs that are administered through its network of 52 local Area Agencies on Aging.
Learn more about the various programs offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging here.
“I started using telemedicine around 13 years ago as a geriatrician for the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I used it mostly for following up with patients after discharge from a Geriatric Evaluation and Management (GEM) Unit, which served as a longer-term rehabilitation unit that we had in our hospital.
“I’ve seen how the VA has used telemedicine over the years, using numerous different platforms. They’ve used encrypted telephones that involved calling from a central location in a medical facility and video chat that required placement of equipment during a home visit.
“We’ve run the gamut from using basic landline telephones to HIPAA-secure video-conferencing programs. These days, we sometimes place tablets in the home when the patient does not have access to a smartphone.
“As more primary care is being shifted away from office visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m now using my telemedicine experience and training as a geriatrician to help the VA use the 4Ms Framework for Age-Friendly Care to improve care for older adults.
Continue reading this article at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, click here.
“‘Well, I have to go in a few more minutes,’ she explained. She and her husband had recently updated their will, fixing married names of their children. ‘You need to be sure that the documents that the kids would need to have are in order. And so we’re going downstairs to find the notary.’”
“Margaret Sullivan posing in one of her homemade masks, cut from an old sock. ‘Several people have seen pictures of them and they’ve very kindly asked if they could send us real masks,’ she said.” – Tyrone Turner/WAMU
by Jacob Fenston and Tyrone Turner
“In our first conversation by phone, Margaret Sullivan told me maybe she wasn’t a good fit for my reporting project, on people whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. After all, she had a comfortable life and was being well taken care of in a retirement home in Falls Church. ‘Living in a bubble,’ she said.
“But a few minutes later, she told me this: ‘My brother died about two weeks ago of the virus.’
“He was her younger brother, and lived a few states away.
“‘I’m the old oldest and he’s the youngest. And that’s outside the order of things.”‘
“My experience during the pandemic has been long days juggling kids and work. Worrying about money. Trying to schedule grocery deliveries.
“But for Margaret, the virus brings with it thoughts of mortality.”
“Long-term care involves a variety of services designed to meet a person’s health or personal care needs during a short or long period of time. These services help people live as independently and safely as possible when they can no longer perform everyday activities on their own.”
“Long-term care is provided in different places by different caregivers, depending on a person’s needs. Most long-term care is provided at home by unpaid family members and friends. It can also be given in a facility such as a nursing home or in the community, for example, in an adult day care center.
“The most common type of long-term care is personal care—help with everyday activities, also called “activities of daily living.” These activities include bathing, dressing, grooming, using the toilet, eating, and moving around—for example, getting out of bed and into a chair.
“Long-term care also includes community services such as meals, adult day care, and transportation services. These services may be provided free or for a fee.”