The coronavirus pandemic has closed Bucks County’s 13 senior centers, challenging the independent nonprofits and the county’s agency on aging that supports them, to provide meals to more than 2,000 seniors.
Kathy Bennett, director of the Bucks County Area Agency on Aging, said the daily “congregate meals” that often are the centerpiece of socializing for many seniors, as well as a key part of meeting their nutritional needs, are no longer possible. Instead, many more seniors are receiving home-delivered frozen and/or refrigerated meals.
Prior to the virus, said Bennett, about 1,800 seniors received home-delivered meals, across the county’s independent centers. At least 500, “if not more,” have been added to the Monday through Friday program, due to the centers’ closing, she said.
Seniors can also receive seven days of sustainable foods, such as pasta, canned goods and tuna.
“There’s been more worry around food, about it being less available and they can’t drive from place-to-place looking for it,” said Bennett. “We’ve had an influx of calls of people looking for food,” since the COVID-19 outbreak.
The agency is working to ensure everyone’s needs are met, the AAA director said. The Doylestown-based agency also enlists support from the Bucks County Opportunity Council. The BCOC works to reduce poverty and promote economic self-sufficiency and partners with various community resources.
While the virus-created shutdown has caused grave concern, Bennett said, each center has dedicated staff that is “very connected” to its members. “They call many at least once a week and check-in on the more vulnerable.”
And, she noted, the health crisis has prompted “a lot of interest from community members who want to help” with making phone calls to home-bound seniors. The agency is creating a shareable list of volunteers to do just that. Churches too, are working to stay in touch with older people and help wherever they can,” said Bennett.
The AAA is compiling a list of pharmacies that deliver for free. For those who are comfortable with and have access to computers, efforts to connect via Skype, Zoom and Facetime are also helpful, Bennett said.
“It’s like most challenges, we look for new ways to provide services and how to reach people in need,” said the director.