Who reading this blog is tired of turning on the news and getting further depressed by stories regarding COVID-19? I imagine this feeling applies to most people in the country right now. No matter how you get your news, I can’t imagine it’s boosting your spirits. Consequently, let me provide uplifting stories of how businesses, government officials and ordinary citizens are trying to make the lives of seniors during this crisis just a little easier.
Although most of the country is under stay at home orders, too many people still have to go grocery shopping. As most people are aware, seniors have to be extra cautious when dealing with the public because of COVID-19. Consequently, trips to the grocery store can be problematic. Fortunately, stores like Walmart, Stop and Shop, Safeway, Albertsons, Whole Foods and Costco have all instituted dedicated shopping hours exclusively for seniors and other high-risk shoppers (ie. pregnant women and people with immune deficiencies). Hopefully, these hours have made it easier for people to social distance and buy groceries and other necessities. Also, some stores, like Walmart, are putting restrictions on the number of products you can buy in the areas of paper products, food and cleaning supplies. However, reports indicate that the system is far from perfect, with seniors still reporting large crowds during their designated shopping times.
In Nevada, CNN reported of a group called “Shopping Angels” led by a Jayde Powell, a pre-med student, that takes care of grocery shopping for seniors and disabled people. This is critical for older Americans who just can’t make it outside to get life’s essentials. Furthermore, the group is coordinating fundraising efforts and working with local business to help those seniors that are financially limited. "We don't want money to be a deterrent," Powell explained to CNN. "If you cannot afford toilet paper or something like that, you're still to reach out to us." It’s also great to see this program catching on, with other people across the country offering to volunteer. Other older Americans, like my wife’s grandmother, have good Samaritans in their buildings knocking on seniors’ doors to see if they can do basic errands like grocery shopping, picking up medications and running to the post office.
In addition, in the beginning of 2020, Maryland started a free “Senior Call Check,” which has turned out to be particularly important given the COVID-19 crisis. The programs is a service for residents 65 years and older, which provides a daily check-in call to seniors and updates on the virus. If two calls are placed and not answered, the senior’s point of contact will be notified, and if that does not work, the authorities will conduct a welfare check. State Representative Ben Kramer, the sponsor of the program, would like to see it expand from a mere checkup to include information regarding the weather and senior scams. Kramer said, “So, this could give a notice that, 'Hey we want to give you the heads up, this impending storm is coming. You may want to make sure, if you're stuck in your home, that you've got enough food for several days, or your medications are filled to cover you for several days.”
B’nai B’rith, as a sponsor of affordable senior housing across the country is certainly no stranger to people helping their neighbors throughout the crisis. For example, at Strauss Manor in Tucson, Arizona, and Sam J. Stone Covenant Apartments in Peoria, Illinois, staff members, volunteers and residents are pulling together to make masks for people who live in the buildings and their caregivers. At B’nai B’rith House in Claymont, Delaware, Jewish Family Services (JFS) donated food boxes for the residents even before the crisis. However, with help from the United Way, JFS has started to include essentials for residents (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) so they don’t have to leave their homes. Naturally, these deliveries have been accomplished with social distancing in mind.
It’s always nice to hear stories about people going above and beyond, especially during times of crisis. Hopefully, the pandemic will recede soon, but in the meantime it’s nice to hear stories of communities rallying around each other for the betterment of everyone.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Legislative Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. He holds a B.A. from American University in political science and a J.D. from New York Law School. Prior to joining B’nai B’rith International he worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence for the Obama White House, practiced as an attorney at Covington and Burling, LLP, worked as an aide for New York City Council Member Tony Avella and interned for Congressman Gary Ackerman’s office. Click here to read more from Evan Carmen.
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