SPRINGFIELD — The COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant struggles for individuals and families to see loved ones. It is especially challenging for high-risk folks like older adults and individuals with chronic health issues.
Long weeks and months at home, often alone, can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even before the pandemic nearly 20% of Americans age 65 and older were socially isolated, according to the AARP Foundation. With the pandemic, even seniors with family and community connections are experiencing isolation and anxiety, especially with senior centers and other activities still closed.
For this reason, the Live Well Springfield’s Age-Friendly Coalition created social-isolation care packages for older adults and families living in Springfield. These care packages are a small reminder to residents that they are not alone during these tough times. The care packages, filled with community resources, activity books, care essentials, and PPE equipment, are a pilot project of the Age-Friendly Initiative to combat social isolation.
Community health workers report positive responses. One recipient sent a photo of a game of checkers and said, “thanks for the games — we’re doing something different!” Another resident from Springfield Elder Affairs said, “that bag was awesome. There was something in there for everybody — it contained stuff for everyone in the family.”
With support from funders Tufts Health Plan Foundation and Trinity Health, Live Well Springfield’s Age Friendly Initiative and Go Fresh Mobile Farmer’s Market were able to pivot its programming to purchase and distribute these care items along with boxes of fresh produce as part of the Go Fresh Emergency Food Distribution. UMass Extension provided bags and resources, Greater Springfield Senior Services provided information about older adult services, Ener-G-Save provided cooling guards, and Serenity Care PACE provided 1,200 gloves and masks for the kits.
Wellspring Cooperative delivered the packages to the Go Fresh site coordinators located at Linden Towers, Independence House, Colonial Estates, Riverview Senior Center, and the Springfield Department of Elder Affairs, and to community partners including Baystate Health Geriatrics, Mass Senior Action, and Healthy Homes Asthma Program. Altogether, 300 care packages were distributed.
The Age-Friendly Coalition recognizes that care items are just one of the many ways it can support older adults and families, and will continue to advocate for more ways to help residents during this pandemic. For more information about the Age-Friendly Coalition or to become a member, e-mail Samantha Hamilton, Live Well Springfield manager, and firstname.lastname@example.org.