LEWISTON — May is traditionally Older Americans Month, and 2020 is no different except the circumstances surrounding May this year are very different.
With the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, SeniorsPlus, western Maine’s designated Area Agency on Aging, has faced expanded operations since March as a result of increased community demand that it has never seen before. Services at SeniorsPlus include information and assistance, short-term care management, Medicare counseling, caregiver support and respite, money management, and nutrition.
“Our staff will tell you they have never been busier,” said Betsy Sawyer-Manter, president and CEO of SeniorsPlus, noting that the organization has remained in operation throughout the pandemic. “In addition to the increased demand for food, our squad of social workers together with our other employees have had to develop new systems to ensure our interactions with our clients are not interrupted and remain strong.”
Education classes now offered online include “Coping with the New Normal within the COVID-19 Pandemic Support Group” and “Zoom 101,” as well as the usual exercise classes, health and wellness classes including evidence-based courses, and the usual array of support groups, including Coping with Grief and Caregiver Support.
Meanwhile, with the increase in homebound people without nearby supports, meal delivery soared.
“In April, as the pandemic in Maine surged, our meal delivery program hit a high of 1,800 meals as compared with 800 a year ago,” said Sawyer-Manter. “This increase is in addition to the need to deliver boxes of shelf-stable food for our clients so that they have added food security during these unusual times. These deliveries of shelf-stable food are especially critical for our many clients who live in a rural area with no corner grocery store, family, or even neighbors nearby.”
Older Americans Month celebrates the older adults who make their marks every day as volunteers, employees, employers, parents, grandparents, mentors, and advocates. They offer their time, talents, and experience to the benefit of our communities.
Led by the Administration for Community Living each May, Older Americans Month has been a special time to recognize these contributions nationally since 1963.
Established in 1972 and headquartered in Lewiston, SeniorsPlus is the Western Maine designated Area Agency on Aging covering Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties. The overall program goal of SeniorsPlus is to assist older people and adults with disabilities in its tri-county area to remain safely at home for as long as possible. The mission of SeniorsPlus is to enrich the lives of older people and adults with disabilities. SeniorsPlus believes in supporting the independence, dignity and quality of life of those we serve. Annually, SeniorsPlus serves more than 19,000 individuals and fields 120,000 phone inquiries.
PHOTO: The nutrition team at SeniorsPlus practices social distancing while packing shelf-stable meals for its Meals on Wheels clients at the gym in the Army National Guard building in Lewiston. The Lewiston-based Meals on Wheels kitchen and distribution center are located in a building leased from the National Guard, but with the coronavirus, the Guard donated use of the gym for Meals on Wheels at SeniorsPlus. (Submitted photo)