Transportation has also continued throughout the pandemic, allowing homebound seniors to get to dialysis and other necessary medical appointments, as well as to shop for groceries and medication.

Transportation has also continued throughout the pandemic, allowing homebound seniors to get to dialysis and other necessary medical appointments, as well as to shop for groceries and medication.

Photo provided by the OPC


OPC keeps focus on seniors throughout COVID-19

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 7, 2020

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — When the doors of the Older Persons’ Commission facility closed to members March 14 due to the COVID-19 crisis, the organization’s essential services to homebound seniors kicked into high gear, officials said.

It’s part of the nonprofit’s mission, according to OPC Executive Director Renee Cortright. The OPC’s mission is to provide life-sustaining and supportive services — such as Meals on Wheels, transportation and senior resources — to enhance the quality of life and prolong housing independence for seniors in Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township.

“While we closed our doors to our fitness and enrichment programming, we kicked into high gear with our essential services, which is Meals on Wheels, the critical transportation — getting seniors to dialysis, necessary medical appointments, grocery shopping — and then our telephone reassurance program, calling seniors, checking in, making sure that they’re OK, providing shelf-stable meals, masks, and just providing reassurance during the time of uncertainty,” Cortright said.

Demand for Meals on Wheels — which provides a daily hot meal and wellness check for clients — increased tremendously over the last four months, according to Cortright, who said the OPC has served 89 new Meals on Wheels clients since March 16. She said the service is available to those 60 and over who are unable to provide sufficient daily nutrition for themselves for any reason — whether due to an inability to cook or shop for necessary food items — and there are no income requirements to qualify. During COVID-19, Meals on Wheels expanded to include family members or caregivers within the household, regardless of age or income. The number of new service requests also increased, and Cortright said the OPC has been able to meet the demand, typically within 24 hours, thus far.

“When COVID hit, we increased the number of Meals on Wheels immediately,” said John Dalton, chair of the OPC Governing Board and a resident of Rochester Hills.

OPC’s nutrition services also include a commodity food program — for income-qualifying seniors who have limited means of obtaining easily prepared and nutritionally complete food — which has also continued on a regular, uninterrupted basis.

Another essential service that the OPC has been able to continue is transportation. Cortright said transportation dispatchers and drivers have remained busy throughout the last few months with minibuses still on the road six days a week, taking seniors to and from dialysis and necessary medical appointments and to get groceries. Cortright said the buses are cleaned and sanitized continuously between trips and throughout the day.

Cortright said referrals continue for services for everything from in-home care to medical supplies and food assistance. Dalton said thousands of reassurance calls have been made to seniors in the community, offering comfort and information to those who may be confused or scared.

“Keeping in contact with the seniors is important. … A lot of people are homebound. We make literally thousands of phone calls to these people almost on a daily basis, just to let them know we are here and to talk to them,” he said.

In April, the organization unveiled virtual programming — arts, enrichment, entertainment and fitness classes — designed to engage and entertain people while they were home. Classes — including arts and crafts, bingo, and lectures — continue to take place via Zoom and Facebook, with an average of 70 people utilizing each class.

“It’s wonderful, because many people that craved that connection were able to see their friends that they would normally see here at the center, and from there, they just created that connection,” Cortright said.

The OPC, she said, looks forward to resuming normal recreational programming as soon as it is safe. Cortright said the OPC is in the process of developing a reopening plan and is currently implementing policies around hygiene, sanitation, social distancing, signage and barriers.

“We want to keep our members and our staff safe, so we’re putting all those policies and procedures in place to keep everyone safe,” she said.

On July 1, the OPC welcomed members and guests back to the center for outdoor activities in a large tent in the patio garden area. All participants are required to wear a face covering before entering the tent, to adhere to social distancing and to register for all events ahead of time on www.MyActiveCenter.com. People unable to sign up on www.MyActiveCenter.com can call (248) 608-0251 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We are continuing to monitor the executive orders. At this time, we are still closed. We have to wait for an executive order that specifically addresses senior centers and reopening,” Cortright said. “We have the most vulnerable population now that has been affected by the COVID-19, so when we reopen, we’re simplifying for safety. We want to keep the seniors safe, so we’re looking at some creative programming.”

For questions on any of the OPC’s programs, call (248) 608-0249 or visit opcseniorcenter.org.

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