According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 80 percent of deaths associated with COVID-19 were among adults 65 and older, with the highest fatality rates involving persons 85 and older. This is due not only to the decreased responsiveness of a waning immune system, but also the fact that older people are more likely to have multiple pre-existing conditions already taxing their immune systems.
This is partly why the percentage of coronavirus deaths per case in Italy is three times higher than in the U.S.: The country’s median age is 47 and 23 percent of its people are 65 or older. Additionally, 38 percent of Italy’s COVID-19 cases are in people 70 and older.
Here in Tallahassee , home to three colleges, individuals over the age of 60 make up only 10 percent of the population. Still, there are a number of local organizations that have kicked into high gear to ensure that these members of the community remain healthy, safe and supported amid this crisis.
On March 31, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs issued an emergency order eliminating visits to elder care facilities in order to abide by social distancing protocols. It also specified that guardians should conduct their quarterly visit within 30 days after the visitor ban is lifted. The FDEA also partnered with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to provide meal delivery to local seniors.
Another organization that is continuing to serve seniors through this pandemic is Elder Care Services of the Big Bend.
According to Elder Care’s director of Fund Development Nicole Ballas, Elder Care’s Meals on Wheels operations are running at full capacity but had to adjust its deliveries. Rather than delivering hot meals daily, the program is cutting down social contact by delivering a 5-day supply of frozen meals and non-perishables once per week.
While this allows them to increase the number of seniors they serve per week, it means that seniors are losing a moment of daily interaction with a friendly face who many have come to look forward.
To remedy this, Elder Care has dramatically increased the activity of its“Elder Call” telephone reassurance program. This allows seniors living alone to still receive daily social interaction and affirmation that someone cares.
Unfortunately, the Elder Day Stay daycare program had to close. However, the care is supplemented with in-home care. Even in our tech-savvy world, Elder Care has relied primarily on video and phone interactions, taking into consideration the level of technological resources that are likely to be in the homes of older people. Therefore, certain programs are still being held via video.
Ballas said that even though the program is not taking on new volunteers at this time, members of the community can always support Elder Care’s efforts by donating money, bulk non-perishables, puzzle books and kind letters and cards to be distributed to seniors.
“Right now [the food pantry] is operating at top capacity,” Ballas said, “so donations for the pantry or even financial donations would be appreciated.”