The following is a press release submitted to SOURCE media.
FRAMINGHAM – Research conducted by the Framingham Council on Aging COVID-19 Subcommittee identified key issues affecting the 55+ population in Framingham during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number one issue of concern is isolation.
In May the Framingham Council on Aging (COA) established a special subcommittee to research and report on the impact of COVID on Framingham’s senior population. The subcommittee conducted two virtual hearings and surveyed participating seniors and agencies.
Responses showed that the number one issue impacting seniors is isolation and its impact on overall well-being.
The committee found that while Seniors are distancing themselves from others to prevent exposure to the COVID-19 virus, they are experiencing isolation and they are feeling disconnected.
“This has an impact on their overall well-being,” said Audrey Hall, Chair of the subcommittee. “Seniors need better ways to stay connected with friends, family, and service providers and they need easier, more convenient access to information. The City provides information but it’s not all in one central location and more Seniors need internet access and technology to access the information, neither of which are universally available and accessible to all Seniors. We have made recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council. Some new efforts are underway, but our Seniors have to be a priority. They are the most vulnerable during this pandemic.”
The Council on Aging subcommittee conducted two virtual hearings and surveyed Seniors and service providers. As a result of participants’ direct input and survey responses the following recommendations were made to the City as top priorities:
Access to Information: to provide seniors with a one-stop shopping approach to information on the city website
Widespread access to WIFI and Technology: utilizing state funding and grants and setting up hotspots (to help Seniors connect with family and friends, participate in activities, access cultural, educational, and exercise programs, and utilize professional services)
Ongoing onsite testing and PPE: for assisted living facilities and independent living facilities (not just nursing homes)
Collaboration between city departments on all services and information available to Seniors to make the best use of city resources
Hall said that Seniors in congregate living need better access to regular testing onsite to reduce their risk of exposure. “If residents, employees, and visitors have access to rapid testing on site, the risk of exposure would be minimized and Seniors would not have to be as isolated. We will be reaching out to our legislative delegation for a more in-depth discussion about onsite, rapid testing for Seniors.”
The Committee also recommended the City pursue state funds, grants and discussions with internet access providers to make WIFI access and internet devices available to seniors.
A Zoom training program and access to devices is now in development at the Callahan Center using CARES Act funding, a grant from the MetroWest Health Foundation, and potential funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant.
Committee member Glenda Thomas stressed the need for the city to focus on seniors with the same level of importance and urgency as we do with our school age children. “It’s a priority to make sure students are connected for education. That same priority should apply to seniors who have been subjected to prolonged isolation which puts them at greater risk of depression, anxiety and overall decline.”
Online technology could be used to provide social support networks and a sense of belonging. Interactions could simply involve more frequent video contact with friends and family, organizations, health-care professionals, and community outreach projects providing information, resources and support throughout the enforced isolation. Beyond this – arts, entertainment, exercise programs and professional treatment and therapies could be delivered
online to decrease loneliness and improve wellbeing.
“I’m proud of the active role the Council on Aging Board is taking to advocate for all senior residents in Framingham. Easy access to information and technology to improve connections to family, friends and various resources is an essential need and possible to achieve,” said Grace O’Donnell, Framingham Director of Elder Affairs.
The 11-member Council on Aging (COA) is appointed by the Mayor.
At its meeting of May 12, 2020, the COA created a subcommittee to study the impact of COVID-19 on Framingham Seniors. The 5 member COVID-19 Impact Committee is Chaired by Audrey Hall with members Glenda Thomas, Jennifer Rich, Mark Goldman and Pamela Senesac.
The virtual hearings and surveys were conducted with Seniors who are residents of Framingham and with agencies and businesses who provide services to Seniors.
The Council on Aging meets monthly, the second Tuesday of the month at 1:30 p.m.