Greetings to my Colleagues on the front lines of elder services,

It is hard to believe that 5 months have passed since senior centers across the state started shutting down because of the pandemic. These times have been stressful, trying, and downright exhausting as we have all tried to navigate services for older adults in a new way. I know you have not stopped since this whole thing started. You have continued to find new ways to deliver essential services to older adults, and I commend you for the work you have done and will continue to do.

At this point, 5 months in and no clear end in sight, I am writing to ask… how are you doing? How are you and your staff holding up? While we continue to try to take care of the older adult population, I want to remind you to also find time to take care of yourself. It is not easy, but it is essential.

I have seen and heard so many positive comments about things that are happening at senior centers statewide. Many have learned to Zoom and are teaching the community to do the same. Classes, support groups, talks with local officials and other special guests are happening daily in Zoom rooms. Some of you have been able to adapt your space and are now offering outside programming while the weather is still nice. Grab and Go lunch programs have been transformed in some areas to Grab and Go with a theme including Shark Week, Luaus and Carnivals in your Car. Some centers have been able to open their doors to small groups and essential services like foot care. Many have utilized local cable access and have started talk shows and other TV programs to get information into the community. Whatever it is that you are doing, it is amazing and truly appreciated. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get to where you are right now. It has also taken many discussions with the Local Board of Health and other officials to determine the best course of action for your senior center.

Regional Director Meetings continue and have proven to be a great source of support and exchange of ideas. We do not all have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to figuring out how to navigate these waters, we simply need to remember to reach out to our colleagues and ask if anyone has tried something that worked.

MCOA continues to support senior centers across the state by providing trainings and information sessions. The Weekly Briefs that come out every Tuesday are always packed with good information and I encourage you to read it regularly. MCOA staff has not wavered in their support and always have time for a phone call or an email if you need some direction, have questions, or need to brainstorm.

Secretary Chen, Assistant Secretary Carole Malone and all the staff at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs as well as our Senators, State Representatives and other legislative staff have been supportive and have made themselves available to our network to answer questions and listen to comments and concerns. I appreciate that EOEA and our legislators are with us during this challenging time and have made it very clear that they want to know what is happening on the front lines. This support is essential and much appreciated.

MCOA and the Conference Committee are busy putting together the Fall Conference. Usually at this time of the year, we are all looking forward to getting away for a few days, being with our colleagues, sharing ideas and taking back as much information as possible to our centers. This year, we will miss being together in person, but I can assure you that the conference will be packed with great speakers and there will be a lot of information for you to take away. The committee is making it a priority to set aside time in each day for self-care as well as time to talk with colleagues in brainstorming and idea sharing sessions. Virtual conferences can be challenging, but MCOA is working hard to make this the best virtual fall conference we have ever had! Stay tuned for details.

As I have said before, please do not forget that you are incredible! You are doing great work and providing services that are essential to the well-being of older adults across the Commonwealth. Please do not stop. Continue to use your imagination to dream up new programs and new service delivery methods and share them with the rest of us. We need to continue to rely on each other to get through these challenging times. This journey is going to be a long one. Programs and services will continue to reach older adults, but in ways that we never could have imagined. I know it has not been easy and I wish I could say it was going to get better soon, but I cannot say that just yet. What I can tell you with great confidence is that this network of directors and senior center staff is strong and powerful and capable of getting though anything, especially a year like 2020.

Please stay in touch. Send your good news stories, ideas, things that work and things that do not to MCOA. I think of you all daily. Feel free to reach out to me at any time. coa@hampdenma.gov

Stay Safe and Healthy,

Becky Moriarty, MCOA President
Executive Director, Hampden Senior Center

Massachusetts Councils
on Aging

116 Pleasant Street, Suite 306
Easthampton, MA 01027
 
Telephone: 413-527-6425
Fax: 413-527-7138