Cora Foley, an active 68-year-old of Burke, Virginia, has been able to maintain her social life while coronavirus stay-at-home orders are in effect. She’s using her predilection for innovation to help other seniors do the same. Foley co-founded the Senior Center Without Walls of Burke and West Springfield, which offers social programming to seniors in those communities. She created a corresponding website to include online social offerings.
“When the coronavirus ‘stay home’ lockdowns were imposed, “I expanded the website to include other classes that are usually offered on-site, like line dancing and Zumba,” said Foley. “From April 1st through the 17th, the website has recorded 451 visitors and 1,789 views, so it has been a daily help to many residents, particularly seniors.”
The new normal of not leaving home except for emergencies can leave many, including seniors and others who are most susceptible to contracting coronavirus, with a social void in their lives. Seniors can join classes and activities ranging from yoga and fitness classes to concerts and lunch with friends.
“Isolation and loneliness has been one of our ongoing concerns for older adults prior to coronavirus and we remain committed to help older adults establish and maintain meaningful social connections during this time and beyond,” said Rachel Coates, Director of the Agency on Aging Arlington Aging and Disability Services Division.
Arlington County is also working collaboratively to keep the social lives of area senior intact, says Coates. “In partnership with Arlington Adult Day Program, Developmental Disability Services and other County programs [including] Parks 55+ programs and libraries, we are making phone calls, mailing activity kits…and hosting music and socialization skills classes virtually,” she said.
Such initiatives offer options and an outlet from consuming the often-conflicting news of coronavirus happenings in solitude.
“Every one-in-7 individuals living in Fairfax County right now is 65 and over,” said Evan Braff of the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services in Fairfax County, who co-founded the Senior Center Without Walls of Burke and West Springfield. “We recognize that this is a scary time for all of us, especially for older adults. “Since we’ve been in this situation, we’ve gotten creative and innovative.”
Part of that innovation is creating virtual versions of the activities that seniors enjoyed in brick-and-mortar settings. “It is truly a collaborative effort to develop the virtual senior center,” said Amanda Rogers of the Fairfax County Neighborhood & Community Services. “Everything is being developed in coordination with other county agencies as well, such as Family Services, Libraries, Housing, and the Health Department.”
In addition to routine services such as delivering meals and providing transportation to medical appointments, local seniors have options for virtual opportunities for social and recreational activities.
For example, the Caregiver Program in Montgomery County now has two online sources of information for seniors. “Rather than disconnect at home during the COVID-19 uncertainty, it is important that we…develop new social connections…and nurture personal health and wellness,” said Lylie Fisher, Caregiver Support Program, Area Agency on Aging, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.
That effort, says Fisher, includes the County’s Engage@HOME, YouTube channel as well as an e-newsletter and blog where seniors can find services including community support groups, telephone and online activities as well Covid-19 updates.
For seniors who need technical assistance, Fairfax County has technicians who are only a phone call away to assist with needs ranging from downloading a video conferencing app to understanding the basics of the Internet. “Technology can be scary for older adults, but we’ve actually been teaching older adults how to use Skype and Zoom for a while” said Braff.
Those lessons have led to success stories that have given seniors the skills necessary to weather the current storm of uncertainty. “What’s really exciting to see was a 98 year old woman posting on Twitter,” said Braff. “It’s great that you have someone who’s 98 and who’s able to post on Twitter.”
Information for Older Adults During COVID
City of Alexandria
Department of Family Services - Older Adults Website:
Virtual Activities for Seniors in Fairfax County
Montgomery County, Md.
County Caregiver eNewsletter and Blog:
Montgomery County’s Caregiver eNewsletter and Blog Engage@HOME (County’s new Caregiver YouTube Channel):