By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Like most agencies and nonprofits that provide services to residents, the Jefferson County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) has faced challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic and now the Delta variant.
For example, the Meals on Wheels program, which serves more than 1,000 people in Jefferson County, has gone from daily to weekly.
Long-term care ombudsperson Sheree Head said that hasn’t stopped volunteers from giving their all.
“We only see individuals once a week, but we give them the opportunity to have regular contact with someone,” Head said, “and we can see how they’re doing and find out what’s going on with them. these individuals. “
Due to the upsurge in cases of the Delta variant COVID-19, Head said the AAA cares not only for the health of those they serve, but the organization’s volunteers as well.
“With [the Delta variant], it’s much more difficult for us because a lot of our volunteers are seniors themselves, ”she said. “We don’t want to put them in a situation where it hurts them more than that [helps] the other individual.
Food programs, Head said, are especially important because they give older people the opportunity to socialize with others. For example, the Senior Nutrition Program provides meals directly to 26 senior centers in Jefferson County, where group eating is not as common as it was before the pandemic.
“[Socializing] is a very important thing, but especially our nutrition program for seniors, because part of their job is to get out of the house and be with other people to communicate and see other people and to talk to others. ‘other people, because this social interaction is very important,’ says the head. “The longer an individual is isolated, it wreaks havoc mentally and physically. “
While several senior centers have started serving meals only through pickup options, AAA has also tried other ways to reach seniors. For example, the organization previously offered Tai Chi classes at senior centers, but has now moved them online.
“[The Tai Chi] kind of helps to center that person, as well as get them to do physical activity and some interaction with other people, ”said Head, who added that it’s difficult to get older people to participate in virtual programs, but that they are more involved than some realize.
“[Getting seniors online] has been a challenge because a lot of our population is not tech savvy, but you would be surprised how many of them are, ”Head said,“ or how many of them have little ones. -children they know how to call to help them with these things. “
Still, there is a segment of the population that they don’t reach just because they’re not tech savvy or don’t have access to electronics, she said.
These people can call 1-800-AGE-LINE and the organization will find a way to help them.
“Once we can get them through our call center, we can assess them for any of our programs that they may need help with,” Head said, “and often they come away with a assistance in several areas, rather than just the one on which the original appeal was made.
AAA also provides seniors with a variety of services, including home care, their Alabama State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which helps place seniors with insurance or health insurance plans in. according to their needs, and their SenioRx program, which helps seniors find drugs at low cost or free.
For more information, call 1-800-AGE-LINE or visit https://uwaaa.org for more information.
Click on any of the links below to read related stories.
Meet the Birmingham residents – all 100 or more – who inspire
UAB Geriatric Expert on the Key to “Successful Aging”
At 104, Dr Ora Mae Parker is still a blessing to others