Austin Public Health reported March 19 that the coronavirus has entered the Phase 5 stage, meaning it has spread from person to person in the community. As the number of cases continue to rise in the Greater Austin area, many entities and local officials are stressing the need for social distance.
Not only is the practice of social distancing necessary to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, but it is also critical to the health of our more vulnerable senior citizens, said Cyndi Cummings, president of LT Senior Services.
LT Senior Services was established to serve aging adults and their families in the Lake Travis community. In light of fears surrounding COVID-19, the nonprofit is working to provide resources for aging individuals. From curating an online database to providing groceries to those in need, the organization is working to support the communities’ older citizens.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that older adults, particularly ages 65 and older, are at a higher risk of becoming ill as a result of COVID-19. Underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease can further increase that risk factor.
Consequently, various senior living communities have paused family visits and many senior have taken shelter in place.
Although this precaution is necessary, the concept of isolation has its own concerns, Cummings said.
“One of the concerns that we have is social isolation and depression," Cummings said. "So we're giving them good ideas for resources.”
Those resources, both free and paid, include online bingo games, yoga classes and local church sermons.
The organization has also made the effort to reach out to its database of clients, which includes approximately 800 individuals.
“We’re going to call seniors and just listen,” Cummings said. “Just call and say ‘We want to check-in on you.’”
Patricia Will, founder and CEO of Belmont Village Senior Living, said seniors are incredibly appreciative of the precautions put in place for them. The company, which has a location in Lakeway, has halted all nonessential visitors for the time being and implemented daily screenings for residents and staff.
Despite the distance from family and friends the community has been very understanding, Will said.
“I think one of the things that we're learning, and I guess we already knew this, but the seniors who live with us have really been through the hardest of hard times,” Will said. “As a result, they have a certain resilience and wisdom that is very valuable right now.”
The company provides its own set of resources to keep moral high and stress low within its communities. With social distancing in mind, residents can participate in guided meditations and breathing exercises.
Amid concerns surrounding the virus, Will said it is extremely important to control stress.
“Stress in and of itself is well known particularly for seniors to comprise the immune system,” Wills said adding that the ever-changing situation and frequent news updates can add to that anxiety.
Although it is inadvisable to visit our elderly loved ones during this potentially stressful time, now is a great time to call them as often as possible, Cumming said, adding that family members can drop off food, talk over video call and tell funny stories.
Will stressed that despite the uncertainty of COVID-19, the residents within Belmont Village are keeping morale high.
“Our residents are proving to be very very resilient without visitors, including family members," Will said. "They are practicing social distancing, and they are really coming up with extraordinary ways to engage, have purpose and cheer each other up."
Social and educational resources for seniors in the Lake Travis-Westlake area and beyond include:
- Power for Parkinson’s provides online exercise videos at no cost.
- Lifetime Connections Without Walls provides programs over the phone for older adults looking to connect with others in their community and offers social and educational sessions, support groups and friendly conversations. The programming fee will be waved during the COVID-19 situation.
- The Westbank Community library offers videos of adult aging seminars and more.
- Aging is Cool provides physical and educational programs online for $15.99 a month.
- The Austin History Museum provides a variety of online exhibits.
- Austin Ridge Bible Church and The Lakeway Church have a collection of sermons online.
- Whole Foods has implemented an exclusive shopping hour for ages 60 and older, as well as those with health conditions from 7 a.m. through 8 a.m.
- H-E-B and Favor created a senior support line at 833-397-0080 to process orders from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
- Costco Wholesale will hold a shopping hour for those ages 60 and up as well as individuals with physical disabilities Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
- The first hour of operations at Target will be designated for vulnerable shoppers.
- Dollar General will host its own senior customer hour during the first hour of operations.
- Lake Travis-Westlake area mental health facilities offer video and phone sessions.
- Lake Travis seniors in need can contact LT Senior Services at 512-766-3658 or at [email protected]