MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS AMID COVID-19
Senior Centers are integral in mental health awareness, education, and support for older adults!
May is Older Americans month and Mental Health Awareness month – a perfect opportunity to celebrate our older adults and highlight the importance of mental health resources available in communities across the state.
Here are some quick facts from the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging website:
Many Senior Centers already have an array of opportunities to strengthen the mental health of older adults in their communities including providing direct support, offering access to information and resources, and creating a welcoming environment which encourages social connectedness, inclusion, and community.
Organizations like Aging Care Connections and Senior Services of Oak Park and River Forest Townships have developed relationships with their local 708 Mental Health Boards to provide mental health support to older adults in their communities.
Aging Care Connections receives funding from several Townships to provide programs benefitting older adults and supporting their mental health:
Senior Centers have a unique opportunity to provide collaborative offerings that will reduce social isolation, decrease the stigma surrounding older adults and mental health, and ultimately strengthen the mental health of older adults in the community.
Most recently, Senior Centers have had to adapt and change to new methods of delivery for our programs and services. In the face of Coronavirus (COVID-19) we have seen buildings shuttered and older adults self-isolating according to the social distancing recommendations from our local, state and federal leaders.
Senior Centers have been challenged to do what we do – serve as a gateway for educational, health, nutrition, social and recreational programs and services, among other things – while shifting the delivery model to meet older adult in ways they are comfortable to maintain contact. In addition, we are often working to expand programming and support our staff to continue new models of service provision for these essential services. Here are some other ways that senior centers are modifying their programming to meet the needs of older adults in the community:
o Congregate meal programs have shifted to a pick-up or a drive through option
o Transportation programs are using drivers and buses to support the increased demand for meal delivery in the community
o Food pantries have modified delivery models to pre-packed parking lot pickup
o Face to face contact for socialization and recreation has shifted to well-being calls and other telephonic support and other virtual opportunities
o Local families have donated care packs with games, puzzles, cards, and personal care items for distribution to older adults in the community needing some additional connection
For more information on managing anxiety through Coronavirus:
Please follow the link below for a Senior Center Toolkit on Promoting Emotional Health and Preventing Suicide: https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma15-4416.pdf
Our experience in finding opportunities to collaborate with local mental health authorities and other community partners has allowed for the expansion of programming to older adults in our communities. We encourage senior centers across the state to seek opportunities for funding and partnership in support of older adult mental health.
Keep up the great work supporting older adults in Illinois – we are all in this together!
We wish you well and hope you stay safe during these unprecedented times!
~Pamela Mahn, Director of Senior Services, Oak Park and River Forest Townships
~Desiree Scully, Director of Social Services, Aging Care Connections