Hi everyone! It’s your Health Connector Alyssa back for our June blog on health. One thing that I am so proud of is the collaboration that happens across our community partners to celebrate and support our citizens. This month, I’m sharing stories about local agencies working hard to make sure our seniors in Rowan County receive everything they need during this time – support, healthy food, and physical activity.
Something unique about Rowan County is the large number of senior services we have in the community. Did you know that we have something of a “Silver Tsunami” in Rowan County – by 2036, around 28 percent of the population will be over the age of 60. In 2019, after a three-year process, Salisbury became a Certified Retirement Community, which it will maintain for five years. This designation promotes Salisbury as a great place where retirees can relocate to settle down and enjoy their lives. “Retirement” does not carry the same negative connotation as it once did – and especially so for Rowan retirees. Our seniors are active with the Rowan County Senior Games, constantly on the move, and serve as a large base of volunteers for many agencies.
This month I’d like to highlight stories of hope and our community agencies acting as good neighbors for our seniors. Meals on Wheels Rowan, Rufty-Holmes Senior Center, and the Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA’s are just three of many agencies doing wonderful work.
Meals on Wheels Rowan – Heroes Deliver
We all know COVID-19 has made things a little different right? Meals on Wheels Rowan recognized they would have a key role to play during this time. Meals on Wheels delivers food to homebound individuals, often seniors, and provides wellness checks. Instead of their traditional model, MOW Rowan was able to provide home-delivered meals for 288 individuals providing nutritious meals on Mondays with five frozen entrees, chilled sides, juice, and milk. This is so important for the vulnerable population of COVID-19, as this allowed for seniors and homebound individuals to stay safe and healthy while still receiving food.
Executive Director Cindy Fink shared this touching story, “We are serving one of the patients who were ill with COVID-19 at one of the local skilled nursing facilities she was discharged and continues to recover. She was new to our community and moved into an apartment with no groceries, no furniture, and support from two siblings who live in the area. We began delivering meals and were able to provide her with a microwave, groceries, and a few pots and pans. We are currently searching for some basic furniture for her to use in her apartment. She is very grateful and has called every day to say ‘Thank you’!”
In addition, volunteers, and staff provided comfort calls to all Meals on Wheels participants Tuesday through Friday during normal delivery times to ensure they had someone to talk to. MOW is more than just a meal – it’s a friendly face and a person going out of their way to care about others in the community.
Finally, during COVID-19, Meals on Wheels Rowan has been purchasing and delivering Groceries and supplies for adults who are at high risk for infection – not just their normal clientele. Meals on Wheels is a great service for our community and shows how much we care about vulnerable populations. Their continued need is support for ongoing home-delivered meals throughout 2020. Our meal program cost has increased to $9 per meal.
Finding New Ways to Stay Fit and Socialize
Rufty-Holmes Senior Center provides a variety of health and wellness, learning and leisure, and services for Rowan County seniors. Normally, they open their doors to seniors in Rowan County and work hard to offer numerous programs to promote positive aging. Their motto is to recognize that no matter your age, when we are moving, active, and engaged, we feel better and have a better attitude about life in general.
Due to the international Pandemic of COVID-19, Rufty-Holmes Senior Center closed its doors mid-March 2020 to general programming. The center’s staff and volunteers continue to provide needed services and virtual programming. The staff provides meals to approximately 200 older adults each week are delivered frozen at five locations in Rowan County, using a drive-thru, contactless service for the older adults. Seniors are able to gain additional assistance from supplies, health education handouts, and fresh fruit donations from the local Food to Table Network.
Rufty-Holmes thought outside the box to continue promoting essential services, while recognizing that health and safety have to be number one for seniors. They currently provide:
- Family Caregiver Support, which is financial assistance for in-home care and adult daycare, and supplies.
- Health Promotion Disease Prevention phone classes – Living Healthy classes.
- Virtual Life-Long Learning classes – partnerships with Rowan County Library, Rowan County Agritourism Extension, and the Senior Learning Network.
- Phone Socialization opportunities among groups – Groups met to continue board meetings or just to have a group chat.
- Individual Assistance, as needed, to older adults – grocery shopping, referrals for taxes and legal assistance, etc.
- Virtual Fitness classes – Instructors offer live classes from the Senior Center, which is also recorded for seniors to access when it is convenient for them.
- Classes are found on our website.
For all of these wonderful opportunities, seniors need to contact staff for a code that allows staff to keep up with the number of users engaged.
The wonderful Executive Director Nan Buehrer shared this message of thanks from a Virtual Fitness Participant. “Thank you all for getting at-home exercise programs online. It’s made a big difference to me. I had tried my own music and movement, but I didn’t keep at it. This online exercise and seeing you all again is something I enjoy and appreciate and will keep at it until we meet again,” said Katie Coffield.
Seniors Matter in Rowan County
Though gyms and fitness centers had to close down due to COVID-19, many found other ways to provide services to clients. From online videos to outdoor workouts and Facebook Live events, we know it’s been a lot for agencies to quickly adapt to. One thing is clear – the mission of the Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA, which is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all who are alive and well here.
The Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA has called every senior member to conduct wellness checks since its doors closed on March 17. As needs were identified, the Y responded to meet them by conducting yard work, picking up groceries and prescriptions, and even assisting with basic needs like water and electricity bills. Meanwhile, our wellness experts have hosted virtual fitness classes (live and pre-recorded). Now that the Y has been able to partially reopen in a limited capacity, we are hosting socially-distanced group exercise classes and lap swimming. Virtual options remain available for those who are unable or uncomfortable visiting our branches, and we encourage all seniors to exercise great caution and consult their physician before joining us!
Sarah McLellan, Director of Development and Community Engagement, shared these great stories from guests and their families below:
“My senior dad just received a phone call from y’all wanting to know if he needed any assistance with anything. That meant a lot to my parents and how the community is looking out for each other. Thank you so much for taking the time and reaching out to him! It’s comforting to know others care during this time.”
“Just want to thank the crew from the YMCA East Branch for all the hard work you put into my yard today. You guys were a blessing in so many ways. I could have never gotten this done on my own. I want to thank each one of you personally for all the hard work and may God bless you ALL tremendously for your dedication and support. God has sent many angels to each to help others and y’all are those angels!”
Right now, the YMCA is asking the community to stay with them as cause-driven members. By keeping memberships active, members enable the organization to invest directly in our communities. Some of their members have chosen to convert their membership dues or program fees into donations so staff can provide much-needed scholarship support for seniors when we are able to reopen. Please contact your local branch to make that change. As always, the YMCA staff covet your prayers and words of encouragement as they navigate this challenging time together!
Word of Thanks to All
As we lean into the new normal, it’s great to see organizations coming together to support those who live, work, play, and pray in Rowan County! We are appreciative of every facet of life that is present here and happy to share more stories about keeping everyone healthy during this time!