Helping the Elderly
Since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, older adults have been advised to stay home to reduce their risk of exposure to the potentially fatal virus.
The stay-at-home orders issued by governments to slow the spread of COVID-19 inadvertently left some seniors feeling isolated. Fortunately, community organizations and volunteers nationwide are stepping up to help their elderly neighbors.
California Teens Grab Groceries for Seniors
Since March, 16-year-old Nolan Mejia and his friends have been traveling all across Carlsbad. Not just for pleasure, but to make grocery runs for North County seniors who are sheltering in place.
The friends formed a delivery service called, “Grocery Grab,” and advertised on social media. The teens were contacted by more than 50 people who soon became regular customers.
The teens do not charge for their service, only for the cost of groceries. Along with paying their grocery bill, the grateful seniors give tips to the teens for their service.
The kind-hearted “Grocery Grab” workers, however, do not keep the tips for themselves but donate the money to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund. So far, Mejia said they have donated about $1,500.
Tulsa-Based Organization Offers a Lifeline for Seniors
LIFE Senior Services regularly provides older adults with in-home and community-based services, but the Tulsa nonprofit had to shift into overdrive after the COVID-19 outbreak.
Eileen Bradshaw, CEO of LIFE Senior Services, said the most pressing need for seniors sheltering in place is food. Some seniors lack food because they cannot go to the store while others who work, may have lost their jobs or live with adult children who are not working because of the pandemic. LIFE Senior Services has helped seniors order groceries and have them delivered to their homes.
Bradshaw said it’s heartbreaking to see seniors who feel isolated and do not have the resources they need. The organization’s case managers provide mental and behavioral health services, and the online tech support has helped seniors with everything from how to video chat with their relatives, to how to access websites that offer virtual tours of famous museums or countries around the world.
LIFE Senior Services expects the needs of seniors to continue while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Fortunately, “we’re just a phone call away to help people solve whatever issue they are having,” Bradshaw said.
Teen Volunteers Lend Seniors a Helping Hand
When the COVID-19 outbreak closed school, 16-year-old Dhruv Pai and 15-year-old Matt Casertano began helping their families deliver groceries to their grandparents. The Maryland teens later began to wonder how seniors who do not have families nearby get their groceries.
So, Pai and Casertano decided to volunteer to do grocery shopping for their elderly neighbors. Their efforts rapidly evolved into a grocery delivery service called, “Teens Helping Seniors.”
The free, no-contact service involves older adults emailing their grocery list to Pai and Casertano. The teens shop for groceries and contact their customers 15 minutes before arrival. Seniors leave the cash or check payment at the front door. The teens leave the groceries at the front door and pick up the payment.
By mid-April, Teens Helping Seniors were 65-volunteers strong and had a growing number of customers. Pai believes that the volunteers are helping to tear down negative stereotypes about teenagers and show how teens can really benefit the community.
Baltimore Ravens Swoop Down to the Rescue
The Salvation Army of Central Maryland responds to community members in their time of need. But when COVID-19 caused the Baltimore area to shut down, it was the Salvation Army that needed help.
The organization received multiple calls for food, many of the calls came from seniors. On top of those requests, the Baltimore City Department of Aging asked for immediate assistance for about 5,000 residents.
As the needs continued to rise, the city’s own Baltimore Ravens stepped in with a $100,000 donation, and space in the parking lot of the M&T Bank Stadium, to load up vans for food delivery.
Donations from the team, churches and other organizations helped the Salvation Army to restock its shelves. Through arrangements with the city, the organization was also able to provide seniors in the area with a cold lunch and a microwaveable dinner for seven days a week.
According to the Salvation Army’s Lt. Antonio Willis, the generosity of the Ravens and other hometown heroes restored hope that the Salvation Army can still respond when needs arise.
Teens at the Service of West Hartford Seniors
West Hartford resident, Jett Rosner, saw seniors out in public shopping and wondered why they were placing themselves at risk for COVID-19.
The Conrad High School junior spoke with his friends Purit Butsapak, and Ben Covici, who also made the same observation. Troubled by the severity of the COVID-19 threat on the elderly, the three friends launched the “WeHa At Your Service” initiative in April, to help seniors in the West Hartford area.
The teens offer no-contact services, such as grocery shopping and delivery, picking up or delivery to the post office, and mowing lawns. Currently, the teenagers pick up their payment in a secure location but they are working on providing digital payment options.
With 35 grocery deliveries under its belt as of late April, WeHa At Your Service is set to expand its roster of more than 20 volunteers, mostly students from Conrad and Hall High Schools.
The main goal, said Purit Butsapak, is to help out as many people as possible in West Hartford.
Nun Offers Tips for Helping the Elderly
For over 175 years, the Little Sisters of the Poor has been helping the elderly poor in all areas of the world. The group of Catholic nuns has continued their devotion by taking care of vulnerable seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, the religious order launched the “Thanks for Protecting Us” campaign to help people understand how they can protect and support their elderly neighbors during this time of heightened fear and uncertainty.
Sister Carolyn Martin, a registered nurse and administrator of the Little Sisters of the Poor House in Lincoln Park on the North Side of Chicago, offers some tips on how to help the elderly:
- Offer to pick up supplies or set up online grocery delivery service.
- Drop off meals.
- Volunteer as a dog walker.
- Stay in touch through daily phone calls or teach them how to use Skype or FaceTime.
- Do not forget their spiritual needs. Remind pastors, priests, rabbis and imams of seniors in their faith communities who live alone and risk being neglected.
- Pray for the elderly.