May 04, 2020 Baltimore County
Online and Remote Programming to Help Combat Social Isolation, Share Important Resource Information
As Baltimore County continues to respond to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Aging has taken a number of steps to implement "virtual senior center" programming to provide important connections and resources for Baltimore County's older adults.
"Our senior centers fill an important role in the lives of so many of Baltimore County's older adults. During this unprecedented time, we're doing more than ever before to expand our reach, innovate, and provide seniors with access to the critical supports they need," Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said. "We know that many older adults experience feelings of social isolation, and I want to applaud our Department of Aging for all their work to provide personal contact, online programming, and other essential resources in this uncertain period."
Since Baltimore County closed physical senior centers to the public on March 16, 2020, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Aging's Division of Senior Centers and Community Services has worked tirelessly to provide quality programming online as well as personal connections to residents affiliated with the Department of Aging senior centers.
"The Baltimore County Department of Aging is dedicated to meeting the needs of older adults in our communities-no matter what," said Laura D. Riley, Director of the Department of Aging. "We're so proud of our staff and volunteers for their dedication in serving our seniors. The lessons we're learning now will shape our Department for years to come."
Expanded Digital Presence
All 20 Baltimore County senior centers now maintain individual Facebook pages allowing senior center members to chat and stay in contact with both staff and other members. To date, these pages have garnered nearly 136,000 views to help fill a need for community. Find your local senior center's Facebook page.
Baltimore County senior centers are now offering online classes for older adults over Zoom. Classes range from preexisting class options, including Tai Chi, Foreign Language, Strength Training and Cooking, to more individual programming, such as group Happy Hours. To find the full list of Senior Center Online Classes, please visit the Department of Aging's website.
Senior Meal Services
Since March 16, the Department has served over 8,300 meals for seniors-a 33 percent increase in the number of participants since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, through a partnership with Meals on Wheels, a home-delivered meal service, Baltimore County is helping provide shelf-stable meals or grocery box deliveries for nearly 200 senior citizens in urgent need of food. Department of Aging staff are also assisting with Baltimore County's Saturday food distribution sites at the Hereford and Reisterstown senior centers.
Staff One-on-One Contacts
Understanding that while group opportunities offer the largest impact, one-on-one touches are another critical avenue to prevent social isolation amid COVID-19. Department of Aging staff continue to work remotely, making individual phone calls, and have identified other methods of contacting residents, including email, text and postcards, to provide residents with information about important resources. To date, staff have completed over 46,800 calls, texts, emails and postcards in the last month to ensure that residents stay connected and they have the resources they need.