Essential services for elderly & disabled

White flowers, black tree, blue sky

We seek your advice and your assistance for our people, the 92,000 residents of the Commonwealth who live in public and subsidized housing for elderly and disabled persons.

We are looking for people with experience who can share their ideas and skills in order to develop solutions to the problems arising from social distancing, specially for elderly and disabled in public or subsidized housing communities.

Services are essential

Elderly and disabled people now face deadly risk should they leave their homes for shopping or essential medical services. Any type of public or shared transportation can expose them to COVID-19.

The best and only protection from an epidemic that lacks reliable treatment is to avoid infection. People at very high risk should not be using any shared transportation services and should not do their own shopping. For health care, telephone, secure mail services, or telehealth consultation can help to bridge the gap.---Coronavirus Safety Guide by Andrew Junkin, MD.

While some individuals may be able to use services like "Meals on Wheels," or deliveries from a food bank, others have specific health or religious dietary requirements and prepare their own food.  A weekly or biweekly shopping/delivery service would meet their needs. And given the very tight budgets of those living on a fixed income, these emergency services should be organized and funded by an agency capable of managing the process.

At present, food delivery services are unable to meet the need in a timely fashion. People who work in grocery stores and those who shop and deliver food are at increased risk for exposure and infection. These workers should be compensated for their risk and they should be provided with essential protective equipment including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.

Therefore, as a community we need to develop methods to reliably deliver food and health care without exposing people to infection.

Dealing with isolation

For those individuals whose isolation is causing deterioration, there should be telehealth or other resources for support.

"As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic progresses, social distancing has emerged as an effective measure to restrain the spread of infections. Many people are now confining themselves to indoor spaces and communicating with their loved ones only through the use of electronic tools. This may have a detrimental effect on mental health, especially for adults over the age of 65, who may be less comfortable with virtual solutions. We must work to prevent social distancing from becoming social isolation among this vulnerable group."

"Social isolation in seniors has been linked to increased depression and suicidal impulses as well as to inflammatory and decreased anti-viral immune responses (2–4). These effects may further increase the susceptibility of this population to COVID-19. Health care systems and communities must consider the mental health burden of social distancing for the elderly and find ways to keep them engaged and motivated. Existing mental health support hotlines could add outgoing calls during which mental health professionals could reach out to the elderly and screen for symptoms of anxiety and depression. These measures could improve older adults' compliance with social distancing and help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health." ---Ali Jawaid,  Protecting older adults during social distancing. Science  10 Apr 2020: Vol. 368, Issue 6487, pp. 145DOI: 10.1126/science.abb7885

Doing something positive helps

One partial solution is for each person to have agency and to have something meaningful to contribute to the community. This can be as simple as checking on the well-being of their neighbors, or providing feedback to their landlords or agencies about concerns affecting tenants. They could make protective masks, they could create poems and they might draw or paint. For those with a smart phone or computer and internet access, they can engage with others for social connection and then go beyond to learn about and join others for advocacy on social problems.

Music for the season

And then there is music for every season, including celebrations of family and community rituals.

Bach - Easter Oratorio: Kommt, eilet und laufet BWV 249 - Van Veldhoven | Netherlands Bach Society

Israel Philharmonic offers Passover medley for holiday

Chava Alberstein Had Gadya

Shoshana Damari Had Gadya

Thank you for your consideration, and we await your ideas and actions.



Maintaining Emotional Health & Well-Being During the COVID-19 Outbreak Resources and tips to help boost emotional health and well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For most non-emergency health issues, contact your doctor by phone or email; some health services will provide in-home visits when appropriate.

Check your town or city government web site for local services; senior centers and social service agencies may also have programs for transportation, food delivery, shopping, and medical appointments.

Check with your landlord, housing authority, or manager for resources and help they may provide or can help you get.

Reach out to agencies such as the Centers for Independent Living and Elder Service Agencies.

Some supermarkets offer special hours for elderly shoppers only; some food delivery services may be operating.

The INTERFACE Referral Service is a free and confidential helpline operated by William James College and provides referral services across 58 communities within Massachusetts.  Residents in those locations can access the Helpline by calling 1-888-244-6843 Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM. The Helpline assists callers by gathering information about their or their child’s mental health concern and uses a database of over 9000 licensed providers to connect the caller to outpatient mental health professionals that best match their needs based on location, specialty, insurance or fee structure, and appointment availability.

Salem Together Community resources for facing coronavirus; An example of coordinating volunteer efforts.

City of Salem COVID-19 Response Update - April 9, 2020; An example of a city health department and police department acting to limit actions that can spread COVID-19, including in common areas of public housing buildings.