Enter the Think Tank Challenge to Address Social Isolation

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older adult male wearing mask


For many living through the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation has been one of the more difficult aspects to endure. Even before the pandemic, feelings of isolation and lack of companionship were prevalent among older adults and adults with disabilities, issues that have been exacerbated by the current circumstances.

Use of technology by this demographic has expanded over the last year, but not everyone is interested or able to take advantage of the tools. So, how can we help?

Challenge Focuses on Social Isolation Among Older Adults, Adults with Disabilities

This year’s Fairfax area Think Tank COVID-19 Challenge is focused on that very issue - addressing individuals who do not have access to, or a desire to use, technology to alleviate their isolation. The challenge is open to all members of the community, including community groups and students in Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.

“No demographic has been harder hit by the pandemic than our older adult community,” noted Springfield District Supervisor and Older Adults Committee Chairman Pat Herrity, in a recent board matter on the challenge.

COVID-19 Response Plan for Older Adults

The Think Thank challenge is an initiative of the COVID-19 Response Plan for Older Adults, which identified three primary areas of concern - social isolation, technology and wellness - and recognizes among other challenges, that many do not have access or the ability to use technology.

The plan identifies services put in place to help reduce feelings of isolation for older adults, including expanding the Meals on Wheels criteria to include more participants, a wellness assessment program for previous Senior and Adult Day Health Center attendees; welfare check-ins for residents of Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority senior residences; virtual and telephonic social visiting; a Neighbors Helping Neighbors program and toolkit; and care packages, among other initiatives.

Tackling the Challenges

Think Tank participants can address one of two challenge options:

  1. Design a strategy or program that will help address social isolation for older adults and people with disabilities who have little or no technology.
  2. Create a technical assistance toolkit addressing older adult social isolation during COVID-19.

Project creators are encouraged to talk to family members, caregivers, older adults and those with disabilities, and to observe the real-life problems these individuals face every day in their homes and in their communities, and then to explore the possibilities of real-life solutions.

The challenge is open to all members of the community, including community groups and students. All submissions must be in by April 18 at 11:59 p.m. to be considered.

Finalists will be notified at the end of April and will present their project or proposal to a "Think Tank" panel in May. Winners will have their solutions considered for long-term implementation and will be officially recognized by the Board of Supervisors.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant