The pandemic of 2020 created many challenges. Staying connected is high on that list for most of us.
I can speak from personal experience on this one. 2020 was the first Thanksgiving I could not visit my parents. Instead, my mom arranged a last-minute Zoom call with the extended family.
We had some technical difficulties getting started, but soon my sisters, aunts and uncles, and grandmother were all together; making small talk about our plans for the day and getting caught up on the stories of our lives.
Most of my family lives in Wisconsin. We exchange cards and the occasional phone call, but oddly enough, the Thanksgiving of 2020 was our largest gathering in a long time. Technology was a piece of that, but the cumulative monotony and isolation from eight months of sheltering in place was likely a factor as well.
The experience really drove home to me the importance of staying connected, and a greater appreciation for what Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) does to help people do so in our community. Here are a few examples:
Friendly Visitor matches volunteers with older adults for weekly, one-hour visits (currently phone or video calls) to reduce isolation and loneliness. The specifics are up to the participants, but typically center on conversation and activities; we have had some long-running friendships grow out of this program.
Friendly Visitor is a partnership with the Boston-based nonprofit FriendshipWorks and is open to Cambridge and Somerville residents age 60 and up.
Technology Coaches help older adults navigate technology basics, providing three succinct sessions to help with device set-up and instruction for email, Zoom, and other common applications.
Advice is limited to devices our volunteers can assist with, such as Kindle tablets and smart phones. If needed, the program includes an initial visit to the older adult’s residence to drop off a device and/or materials, link to Wi-Fi, and install apps. Follow-up sessions are over the phone.
This free program is open to SCES clients age 60 and up.
The Aging Information Center provides information and advice on a wide variety of aging, disability, and caregiving issues. Our elder care advisors can check eligibility for state and federal programs that support Aging in Place and are also knowledgeable on local and regional resources. During the pandemic, they have also connected local older adults with food, masks, and other essentials.
The Aging Information Center is a free resource that is open to all residents of Cambridge and Somerville, and non-resident caregivers.
Bonus The Cambridge and Somerville Councils on Aging have both hosted virtual events in recent weeks. Follow their Facebook pages to stay posted on upcoming events. The local libraries are also offering virtual programming and contactless pickups. Visit their websites for more details.
I will close by wishing everyone good health and a happy 2021. The past nine months have felt more like three years, but we have seen a lot of good as well: Volunteers and donors helping others. Local businesses supporting meals programs. Organizations working together to provide food and protective equipment where it is needed most.
We are proud to be part of a community that cares so deeply about our older neighbors. We made a lot of connections in 2020, and we look forward to building on those in the new year and beyond.
Nathan Lamb is the Director of Outreach and Community Relations for Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services, a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older adults in Somerville and Cambridge. For free advice and guidance on questions of aging, caregiving or disability, contact our Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 or email@example.com.