Community Keeps Seniors Safe Amid COVID-19

Seniors at Myerberg (David Stuck)
Seniors at Myerberg (David Stuck)

To help the most vulnerable members of the community, local organizations advise seniors to stay busy, call loved ones, and watch out for COVID-19 scams.

“Stay home! Keep connected to family, friends, and neighbors by telephone,” said Rachel Brodsky, elder care specialist at Jewish Community Services, to keep seniors safe. “Let people help you by bringing you the things you need so you don’t have to go out. You can also call the JCS hotline for support and resources, 410-466-9200.”

Some of the advice Tiffany Nicolette, vice president of CHAI’s Aging in Community division, has been sharing is for seniors to “remain as engaged as possible.” Nicolette stressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines of staying home, washing hands, and social distancing, but she is most concerned about addressing the danger of social isolation.

“There’s a lot of research around how that can exacerbate health concerns, so anyway they can stay engaged is super important,” she said.

The Edward A Myerberg Center, a program of CHAI, has taken much of its programming online, according to Nicolette.

Seniors can view Myerberg fitness classes, art classes, and more on its website. Under the music section, visitors will notice that each day there is a different show from The Metropolitan Opera available for free streaming. JCS and the JCC also have virtual classes to help with isolation.

Besides classes, CHAI is making sure its service coordinators at each building call residents to check in and make sure that they have access to resources. CHAI also offers a podcast on The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore’s website about how to use Alexa.

Local synagogues are also looking out for their elders. Beth Tfiloh Congregation
volunteers have already made close to 1,000 calls to check in on members over the age of 70.

“The volunteers and those receiving the calls have had an equally delightful experience, and there is so much positivity and goodness going on from such a difficult situation,” said Holly Venick, BT director of synagogue life. “Many members have been given information for services in the community, brought up to date with how to access online services in the shul, and we have tried to fulfill to the best of our ability needs our members have.”
Baltimore Hebrew Congregation is likewise keeping in touch with its seniors, especially for Passover.

“Clergy, staff, and lay leaders, and volunteers are calling all our members. … Clergy calls are mostly focused on the elderly and other vulnerable members,” Rabbi Andrew Busch said.

BHC is also offering two virtual seders this year that people can attend without leaving their homes. Myerberg will likewise offer a virtual seder for 20 senior members on April 6.
Another concern is scams that target older adults.

One recent kind of scam involves calls pretending to be a sick grandchild requesting money to order food from quarantine. Some scams pretend to sell a cure to combat the virus, while another pretends to fund the research on the virus. There are even CDC and World Health Organization impersonators who send emails with links to “information.”

In response, the CDC and WHO released suggestions to keep seniors safe on how to avoid COVID-19 scams: Do not click on links from email addresses you do not recognize, check the caller ID, and never send money over the phone.

“I can’t guarantee that this is something that is going to go away any time soon, but I can reassure [people] that, something comforting to me, is people jumping into action to help someone who maybe can’t get to the grocery store,” Nicolette said. “People are making their time to call, to shop for others, and that to me is really reassuring. We can’t guarantee that the end is in the near future, but we’re in this together.”

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