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Keyword: senior centers

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.

Online Classes

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.

For further details on activities, visit the Department of Aging’s website or visit any of the twenty senior center Facebook pages.

Senior Center Programming Being Increased to Meet Rising Membership Needs

The Baltimore County Department of Aging is pleased to announce its plans to increase programming within its Division of Senior Centers and Community Services to meet the rising membership and community needs.

“The new County administration led by County Executive John A. Olszewski, Jr. understands the increased need in the community and committed the funds necessary to expand services for our older adult population,” stated Department of Aging Director Laura Riley. She further added, “We are fortunate to have leadership that appreciates the importance of having equitable opportunities for socialization and wellness activities for older adults everywhere across the county.”

The Need for Increased Programming

The need for the increased programming became apparent when all members of Baltimore County’s 20 senior centers were asked to complete an Adult Well-Being Assessment to assess their perceived quality of life. The Adult Well-Being Assessment tool (AWA) was developed by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) as part of the 100Million Healthier Lives Project, a global community of change makers across hundreds of communities who are transforming the way we think and act to improve health, well-being, and equity. Baltimore County was proud to be the first county in the country partnering with NCOA to use the AWA to assess the impact of senior centers on older adults’ quality of life.

“The outcome of this assessment demonstrated the impact of fewer hours of fitness and educational programming being provided at the Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands and Fleming Senior Centers.  Members at both senior centers scored lower on key quality of life measures compared to members at other centers,” explained Jill Hall, Chief of the Senior Center and Community Services Division. “The Department of Aging is anxious to build the classes and opportunities at both of these centers to enhance the lives of our membership, and these communities as a whole.”

The Changes

Thus, there will be a change in the hours of operation for two of its twenty senior centers: Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands Senior Center and Fleming Senior Center. New hours for Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands will be 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. beginning October 7 and for Fleming will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning October 15. Returning to full time hours will allow staff the opportunity to schedule more programs that will address some of the health and financial issues facing older adults, including programming related to job training, opioid awareness, health screenings, diabetes prevention, exercise, nutrition, grandparents raising grandchildren, caregiving and intergenerational programming.  Programming will be a collaboration with other County agencies and partners in these communities.

This announcement has been met with great anticipation and excitement by the two locations as members from both senior centers have been lobbying for expanded hours since they were decreased in 2013 for fiscal reasons. During this time, membership has continued to grow in each site. For example, Fleming had an annual average attendance of 5,600 in 2013 and now has an attendance of over 18,000 visits a year. Similarly, Lansdowne’s participation has increased by six percent over the last year.

Related to the plan to reinstate hours, the county recognizes the importance of engaging more residents in programs and activities during the day to help build more sustainable communities. Three target areas where there is limited daytime adult programming were identified  to pilot lowering the age of senior center registration to individuals age 50 plus.  The three sites are: Fleming, Hereford and Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands.

About Baltimore County Senior Centers

Senior centers offer an accessible, and welcoming location to attract individuals age 50 to 59 so they can participate in educational, vocational, social, nutritional  and health related  programming which will improve their overall wellness, as well as that of their communities. This new policy will allow individuals 50 to 59 years of age to now join the 60 and over members at the three pilot locations effective October 1, 2019. October 1 is the beginning of the senior center registration period so the data to assess impact and outcomes would be in line with established reporting periods.

Similar to membership requirements for those 60 and older, there will be no membership fee for the 50 to 59 year old members. However, in some cases (such as for Eating Together meals and evidence-based programming) the younger members will be required to pay the full cost of the meal or program while the 60 and older members would continue to be asked for an anonymous donation per federal funding requirements of the Older Americans Act. The 50 to 59 year old members would only be allowed to participate at the center which they have joined during the pilot period. Also, only individuals 50 and older would be allowed to join. If they have a younger spouse this benefit would not be available to the spouse.

For further details on activities, you may visit the senior center page of the Baltimore County Department of Aging’s webpage.

Several Locations in Baltimore County Provide an Oasis During These "Dog Days of Summer"

The Labor Day weekend is just two weeks away, but the dog days of summer are hanging on tightly. Temperatures above 90 degrees with a heat index of 100 and higher, are projected through early next week, but there are many places in Baltimore County to go to stay cool and safe from the intense temperatures.

Nineteen convenient branches of the Baltimore County Public Library are open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Residents can cool off while reading a book or enjoying scheduled events at a branch in their community. Visit the Baltimore County Public Library website or call 410-887-6100 to get more information on the library branch nearest you.

Baltimore County Senior Centers are also open to everyone, regardless of age. Most locations are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents who visit these locations to get relief from the heat can watch TV, read a book or sit and relax. Visit the Department of Aging website for information on the 20 Senior Centers throughout the County or call the Senior Center Information and Assistance Line at 410-887-2594.

Other Cool Locations

These public cooling centers, with plenty of water and available restrooms, offer an oasis during these hot days. Other places you can go to seek relief from the heat in Baltimore County include:

  • Community Centers
  • Churches
  • Malls
  • Movie Theaters
  • Museums
  • Restaurants
  • Or, the home of a neighbor, relative, or friend with air conditioning

"From libraries and senior centers to churches, movie theaters and malls, there is a place in every community where our residents can get relief from the heat, and everyone without air conditioning is urged to use them," said Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Director of Health and Human Services.

Hot Weather Tips

Keep yourself and your family healthy and safe in the summer heat by adhering to the following hot weather tips:

  • Never leave a child or pet in an unattended car!
  • Check on elderly or chronically ill family members, friends and neighbors.
  • Stay hydrated with water or fruit juices. Also, provide your pet with plenty of water and proper shelter.
  • Limit outdoor activity when the temperatures and humidity are extremely high.
  • Use sunscreen and reapply often when spending time outdoors.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing, a hat and sunglasses when outdoors.
  • Visit a cooling center in Baltimore County or consider visiting family, friends or an air-conditioned public building.

Revised September 11, 2017