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News from engAGED

Older Adults Making Their Mark Even During COVID-19  
This month’s blog post, written by Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, highlights ways older adults are making their mark during the COVID-19 crisis and continuing to find innovative ways to volunteer to support their communities. Remember to visit the engAGED blog every month to see our latest posts. Let us know if you have a topic or idea you would like to see us write about!
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Partners in EngAGEment
As communities across the country continue to find new ways to engage older adults during the COVID-19 crisis, they are also exploring innovative ways to engage new partners, volunteers and the community at large. This month’s newsletter highlights innovations that involve working with partners and the community to support older adults and to ensure that they are not isolated during the pandemic.  

Sunshine for Seniors
Recognizing that older adults living in senior housing facilities may be particularly isolated given visitation restrictions, St. Paul’s Senior Services, a senior living community in San Diego, CA, asked the city’s residents to send words of support and examples of activities that could be used to help the facility’s older residents stay active, despite the physical distancing brought about by COVID-19. In addition, the Sunshine for Seniors program encourages community members to donate the following items to brighten an older adult’s day:
  • A store-bought or handmade card with an encouraging message
  • A letter with an uplifting message
  • A drawing
  • Pages from a coloring book
  • An inspirational message or story
  • A large print puzzle book
Delivering with Dignity 
To support the nutritional needs of older adults in Las Vegas, NV during COVID-19, several organizations partnered with local restaurants to deliver prepared meals to older adults who needed them. Delivering with Dignity is a collaboration of the Elaine P. Wynn and Family Foundation, The Moonridge Foundation and Moonridge Group, Blau and Associates, technology partner Copia, the Clark County Commission and the United Way of Southern Nevada. The collaboration also includes four local restaurants and online retailer Zappos for Good. Due to the demand, students from the University of Nevada Las Vegas Medical School, working in conjunction with the Nevada Medical Center, joined this endeavor to help process meal requests. Through this innovative partnership of several organizations and providers, more than 7,000 meals have been delivered to older adults.
 
SAGEConnect
To support LGBT older adults during COVID-19, SAGE created SAGEConnect, a program that matches LGBT older adults with volunteer community members and allies. The one-to-one connection offers social support and connects older adults to other resources such as SAGE’s National LGBT Elder Hotline. The interaction has helped combat feelings of loneliness and isolation for LGBT community members during the COVID-19 crisis.
engAGING Articles
The below articles feature examples of how community-based organizations and members of the community have joined forces to support older adults and combat social isolation during COVID-19. Although these examples draw upon the resources in their communities, we challenge you to look for the unique champions and resources in your community that you can draw upon to engage older adults.

Robotic Pets Ease Isolation for Older Adults in Florida and New York
The State Units on Aging (SUA) in Florida and New York have found a unique way to help older adults feel less isolated—by distributing animatronic pets to help prevent loneliness among older adults. Already, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs has provided 375 of the robotic pets to socially isolated seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. In New York, the New York State Office for the Aging provided more than 1,100 animatronic pets that the state’s Area Agencies on Aging distributed to isolated older adults. Many of the animatronic pets were distributed in partnership with Ageless Innovation to provide the Joy for All Companion Pets. Pilot test results have demonstrated that the pets have provided an “overwhelming value” to older adults.
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Greenwich House Online Learning Center Providing Some Laughs
Recognizing that laughter is good for the soul, 20 older adults in New York City are connecting on Monday mornings through their love of comedy. The group started meeting in March a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic and have been meeting virtually since then. Connected by the seniors’ online learning center through Greenwich House (an arts, education and social services center located in New York City’s Greenwich Village) and led by professional comedian Jo Firestone, these older adults are able to practice monologues and respond to prompts as a way to engage during this pandemic. 
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College Students Creating Connections 
At the University of Southern California (USC) intergenerational connections have a big impact. Students involved in the USC Gerontology Association are connecting with older adults across the country through an intergenerational phone chain. In addition, the USC chapter of the service group Glamour Gals, a nonprofit that connects teen volunteers and older adults living in residential care through complementary makeovers, are now reaching out to send cards to older adults residing in senior living communities to help them maintain their social connections.
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Retired Older Adults Offering a Helping Hand
With many of their older volunteers adopting physical distancing, staff from the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) program and other volunteers in Philadelphia, PA have been delivering meals to the community’s older adults. Organized by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging partner the Kleinlife Community Center, the meals are prepared by Cook for a Friend, a volunteer program which engages community members to prepare kosher meals for distribution to individuals that are unable to prepare meals for themselves.
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Webinar Resources
Older Adults Continue to Make Their Mark Even in the Midst of a Pandemic
The COVID-19 crisis has upended Aging Network services almost overnight. Many of the revamped aging services and programs have created new challenges and opportunities for staff, including the critical volunteers that all Aging Network organizations rely upon—many of whom are older adults at greater risk themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch the recording to learn about innovative tactics two Area Agencies on Aging and senior centers have adopted to help their older volunteers engage safely from their homes during this crisis, helping them to “Make their Mark,” which is the theme of this year’s Older Americans Month. Our presenters were:
  • Sally Jo Spaeni, Senior Center & Senior Services Manager at Madison Senior Center in Madison, WI
  • Adrienne Hopkins, Senior Corps Volunteer Coordinator at Missoula Aging Services in Missoula, MT
Have you missed one of our past webinars? Browse our webinar archive
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