If nothing else, COVID-19 has forced people to adapt — and to think of new ways of getting things done.
Hillsborough County’s Aging Services has been doing just that — through a telephonic program that is currently replacing personal visits to the department’s senior centers.
Soon, the department hopes to switch to virtual Zoom meetings to share programs with seniors, but until it does, it will continue using a call-in system.
“We’ve been closed since mid-March because of COVID-19, unfortunately,” said Frances Duran Brea, general manager with nutrition and wellness for the department of aging services’ senior centers.
The pandemic has been especially difficult for the elderly because they are in the age group considered to be at greatest risk for serious health consequences from the virus.
Because of that, those over age 60 are advised to limit their contact with others — which has the effect of being socially isolating.
“It’s definitely impacted them hard,” Duran Brea said, referring to the county’s older population.
“A lot of them live alone,” she said. And, even those who live with family members often must stay home while others come and go.
“Their families are afraid to take them out,” Duran Brea explained.
The call-in system gives the county a way to stay connected with seniors.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the program is offered in English, from 11:45 a.m. to 12: 45 p.m.
Then, it is offered again in Spanish, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Participants call (888) 585-9008, then punch in the Conference ID number, which is 784132094#.
“We do many of the programs we did at the centers. We have nutrition presentations with our registered dieticians,” Duran Brea said. “I usually do the health segments, the safety segments, and we have specialized activities staff who do a variety of programming.
“We’ve tried everything. We have drawing classes. We have some community partners who help us facilitate some of the programming. Reminiscing musical programs.
“We have a variety of health and wellness programs, around the seven dimensions of wellness,” she said.
Those seven dimensions are physical, mental, emotional, social, environmental, intellectual and spiritual.
Calls include a nutrition presentation and a health segment, and the rest of the hour consists of programming that varies, Duran Brea said. In essence, the programming is part educational, part fun.
Community partners help them find out about resources that are available, or provide useful information, she added.
Using the new mode of delivering services has had its share of obstacles, Duran Brea said.
Some elderly find that it’s challenging to call in.
They complain: “It’s too many numbers,” she said, and some forget to punch in the #symbol at the end of the Conference ID number.
Some people likely don’t know the program is available, she added.
The program will be shifting to a Zoom format soon, which will mean seniors will need to adapt to that change, Duran Brea said.
“Right now, we’re recruiting a lot of volunteers to give one-on-one assistance to some of the seniors that are requesting that — to set up the Zoom,” she said.
Those volunteers will call to give the seniors step-by-step instructions, she explained.
In addition to the countywide Tuesday and Thursday programs, individual senior sites throughout the county also offer call-in programs.
So, seniors can call those centers to take part in their virtual wellness program.
The Lutz Senior Center offers its program on Wednesday and Friday. The program is offered in English, 11 a.m. to noon, and in Spanish, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
To participate, call (888) 585-9008, conference room 448-371-556#.
Want to help?
Volunteer opportunities include, but aren’t limited to: Senior centers and dining center, adult day care centers, gardening, arts and crafts, food service, fitness, special events, music, literature, administrative. To find out more, contact the volunteer coordinator at (813) 853-1067 or .
For general information about services, call (813) 272-5250.
Want to connect?
Countywide call-in program, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The program is offered in English, from 11:45 a.m. to 12: 45 p.m.; it is offered in Spanish, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
To participate, call (888)585-9008, Conference ID: 784132094#.
Lutz Senior Center, Wednesdays and Fridays; English, 11 a.m. to noon; Spanish, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Call (888) 585-9008, conference room 448-371-556#.
Published September 23, 2020