Carey’s Corner: Stepping Up for Older Adults

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Posted By on May 7, 2020

FSL is committed to helping seniors

“My mother called me up and said they wouldn’t let me in to see Gammie. Can you do something about it?”

Gov. Doug Ducey shared this story with me during the statewide Town Hall I co-moderated a few weeks ago.

I asked the governor about how this pandemic is personally affecting him and his family. He shared the hardship of not being able to visit his grandmother, who he calls “Gammie.”

While Ducey may be in charge of operations in the state, he is also a husband, father and son who shares the same concerns as many of us about our senior population.

Social isolation and loneliness among older adults was a serious concern before the coronavirus. Now, the health risks of loneliness from being sheltered in place have created an even greater public health crisis.

“Seniors are afraid. They are isolated to begin with, and now they are more isolated. We see more and more of that,” said Tom Egan, the CEO of the Foundation for Senior Living, or FSL.

When the pandemic first hit, I opened our Inspired Media 360 production studios to conduct some exclusive interviews — sitting six feet apart with only one crew member in the studio — with nonprofit leaders. They needed emergency help reaching out to the public, and I wanted to do something.

Egan was one of our first interviews.

“Demand is going up, and funding is going down,” he said. “Imagine being a senior, and you have no transportation, or limited transportation, you’re being told to distance yourself from other people. You have limited options and live on a fixed income.”

Egan and his team at FSL had to jump into action.

On an average day, FSL serves more than 1,400 meals. They had to switch those meals to be home-delivered quickly.

“That meal they get from us sometimes is the only hot meal of the day,” Egan said.

In response to an overwhelming number of requests from homebound seniors for groceries and household items such as toilet paper, FSL’s “Care by Design” program implemented a Grocery Bag Delivery Program in March. Social workers are the points of contact for the program, which delivers food and paper products to doorsteps.

The Care by Design team has also been checking in with more than 250 homebound seniors each week. Comfort Callers bring emotional support, and through questions and conversation, determine seniors’ immediate needs. For example, they connect seniors who seem to be emotionally declining with a licensed counselor via telemedicine.

During an average year, FSL serves more than 30,000 people. This year, the numbers will skyrocket. At the same time, FSL, like many nonprofits, is dealing with decreased funding.

Their annual event, which was supposed to take place in April, raised over $250,000 last year. They had to cancel this year’s fundraiser because of COVID-19, and the organization has to figure out how to raise that money — plus more. Egan told me that canceling the event was a tough decision, and he lost several days of sleep, having to make the final call.

Fortunately, a few corporate donors stepped up to help.

WAMO made a generous donation to the Foundation for Senior Living, and others continue to express interest in helping seniors through this crisis.

FSL has seen the community come together, including Brophy students who are writing inspirational notes for the home delivery bags.

The day I interviewed Egan, he left the studio worried about how they were going to meet the need. Since then, they’ve been working all hours to make sure seniors in the Valley are taken care of with food, necessities and emotional support.

We all need human connection: a phone call, a note from a student, or a quick socially distanced visit from someone who cares.

Whether it is your Gammie, or someone else’s, we have to make sure seniors are not alone in this fight. We owe it to them.

To learn more about the Foundation for Senior Living, go to fsl.org.             To see more of Carey’s reporting, visit inspiredmedia360tv.com.

Carey Pena

About Carey Pena

Carey Peña is an Emmy award winning journalist who majored in broadcast journalism at Arizona State University.