During the COVID-19 pandemic, many once-mundane tasks — like dropping by the grocery store or pharmacy — represent a newfound degree of difficulty, and even risk. This is especially true for folks 65 and up, who are more endangered than others by the highly contagious coronavirus.

In these times, many service agencies have stepped up or completely transformed the way they do their work.

Getting Food and Other Essentials to Those Who Need It

Take this example.

A older man greets CPACS staff bringing him meals with accordion music.
A older man greets CPACS staff bringing him meals with accordion music

Since the widespread lockdown began in March, group meals that formerly fed hundreds of people at senior centers across the region have shut down. This is, of course, during a time when many older people no longer feel comfortable leaving their homes. Meanwhile, for some, the cost associated with grocery delivery services is prohibitive. It’s a perfect storm—resulting in a sharp rise in the need for home-delivery of critical items.

Relief arrived recently, in the form of a $95,000 grant from the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC)—which provided for several weeks of meals for about 600 metro Atlanta older adults who were waitlisted. The grant served people who were deemed at most serious risk of going hungry.

ARC is the Area Agency on Aging for the 10-county region. As such, ARC allocates federal and state funds for critical services for older adults and disabled individuals in ten metro counties as well as four regional non-profit organizations.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

People are also getting creative to help one another.

Fulton County Senior Services regularly works to determine whether those they serve need groceries or meals and then customize food deliveries accordingly. It’s also coordinated a “pen pal” service that links older individuals to behavioral health providers during this time of social isolation.

ARC’s empowerline service is also showing its ability for agility. Empowerline’s website and phone line have long helped older individuals and their caregivers access everything from transportation needs to legal help. Now, its counselors are connecting people to financial assistance, delivery of food and meds — and sometimes, just someone to talk to during a stressful time.

Older individuals are already at an elevated risk of depression due to social isolation, and empowerline’s counselors can link people to mental health support. And sometimes, phone counselors will follow up with a caller a few times, just to make sure they’re okay.

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.