By Melanie Cost, Jessie Ball duPont Fund
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted older adults – they are not only more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus, but also have seen their daily routines disrupted and are spending more time than ever alone. In response to the needs of our aging neighbors, ElderSource, the Northeast Florida regional agency on aging and our aging and disability resource center, has ramped up its outreach and is quickly adapting its services and resources to continue effectively supporting elders in this time of social distancing.
ElderSource received one of the first grants from the First Coast Relief Fund, $50,000 that is being used to support a variety of direct services for older adults across Nassau, Baker, Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties.
“While we are all working to physically distance from each other during this time, older adults are particularly being impacted by the prolonged social disconnect,” said Linda Levin, chief executive officer at ElderSource. “Being the population that is most impacted by COVID-19, older adults are not able to get to food and supplies because of frailty or lack of transportation or they stopped going out because they are taking the warnings as seriously as they should. There are also seniors who were working and depending on their income to get by and are now without their income as employers have reduced their workforce. Further, we are concerned about the impact on their emotional and mental wellbeing as a result of this increasing isolation.”
“With the resources provided by the First Coast Relief Fund we are able to help older adults with food, supplies, mental health counseling through telehealth, telephone reassurance and financial assistance,
said Levin. “This funding and the services we are able to provide as a result are lifesaving.”
ElderSource is particularly focused on connecting older adults to the resources they need for daily life, especially as simple routines such as grocery shopping have been interrupted by the risk of contracting COVID-19. In April, ElderSource partnered with Winn-Dixie to grocery shop and deliver the essentials for 25 seniors in Putman County. Local county service provider ElderOptions identified seniors in need and solicited their shopping lists, before representatives from ElderOptions joined members of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, the Crescent City Police Department and the Putnam Board of County Commissioners to shop at Winn-Dixie at 6:00 a.m. before the store opened, and delivered the groceries later that day.
ElderSource staff also partnered with in-home senior care agency Aging True, supported by donations from Humana and Farm Share, to create take-away kits including toilet paper, paper towels, non-perishable food, other hygiene products, and a COVID-19 fact sheet. The team – some of whom drove from as far as Daytona Beach to support the effort – adhered to social distancing guidelines while packing and completed 1,000 kits in just one day.
“I want to thank the team for making the effort to be here, for showing up early to set up, for purchasing the supplies and coordinating with our partner Farm Share to deliver the toiletries, and for financial support from Humana in addition to Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund and Jim Moran Foundation,” said Levin. “This was a true team effort, and 1,000 frail elders will benefit when Aging True delivers these kits along with their meals in the coming week.”
ElderSource is one of hundreds of local nonprofits affected by COVID-19 disruption. Grants like the one from Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund are critical for nonprofits like ElderSource to continue offering their portfolio of services.
At this time, the Relief Fund has raised over $5 million and helped over 80 local nonprofits serving those disproportionally affected by COVID-19. More grants are pending. For timely updates, visit the Relief Fund reporting webpage. To make a gift to Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund, visit unitedwaynefl.org/relief-fund.