As the COVID-19 pandemic has reframed what is considered normal life in our community and the world at large, it has also radically altered the way NCS and their Health and Human Services partner agencies respond to meet the needs of older adults in Fairfax County.
When Senior Centers closed in March to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus, NCS staff, along with staff from other HHS agencies that support long term care, pivoted to address the most immediate need of older adults by implementing a weekly meal delivery service to replace the meals served in Senior Centers. Five months and 250,000 meals later, the meal delivery program continues to deliver meals each week.
While the meal delivery program addressed one crucial need, during meal drop-off, staff began to discover that older adults were experiencing a range of physical, mental and social issues while self-isolating in their homes. To address the problem, NCS implemented a wellness calls program, using a questionnaire designed to assess fully and respond to the needs of older adults. Senior center staff now make monthly wellness calls to every older adult who has visited one of the 14 senior centers in the past year. Call frequency is increased when it is determined that extra monitoring is needed. Often, senior center staff work collaboratively with other NCS staff to help connect the participant’s family members to services.
“We are taking a holistic approach in our wellness calls to older adults. We want to ensure that their physical, emotional and social needs are being met. We also believe that helping an individual thrive means ensuring that the needs of their family unit are also met.” - Norma Lopez, Region 2 Operations Manager
NCS championed a team approach in developing the Virtual Center for Active Adults, creating a one-stop site where older adults and adults with disabilities can connect to a diverse range of resources and services offered by organizations throughout the county and beyond. By partnering with Service Source, NCS was able to begin offering live virtual programs to seniors via Zoom starting in May. The team now offers programs daily from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“Your work has provided new joy in my mom's life. While being isolated at home due to health issues may have limited her ability to engage in the activities that she cherished so much just a few years ago, she has found new joy and renewed life through the virtual center activities that you offer.” - Lee H.
“I want to let all the staff putting together the virtual programs for the Senior Centers know how much I am enjoying them and appreciate everyone’s hard work! All the programs are so creative and each day has such a variety to pick from, making each day full of learning, fun, and exercise.” - P. Bestrain
Programs range from fitness classes to cooking demonstrations, art instruction to lunch bunch social hours. Each week, approximately 700 people participate in 30 virtual programs and popular fitness classes, such as SAIL (Stay Active and Independent for Life), regularly log 80 or more participants.
What can older adults look forward to next from NCS? Coming this fall, staff plan to offer more opportunities to learn and connect by expanding the Zoom programs offered. They are also producing a library of diverse on-demand programming that can be enjoyed any time from home. To learn more, visit the Virtual Center for Active Adults and be sure to follow us on Twitter @FairfaxNCS for the latest news and information.