Providing for Alaska seniors throughout the pandemic
Southeast Senior Services
June 1, 2021 | View PDF
During the pandemic, many organizations in Alaska reduced the direct services they provided, but that was not true for Southeast Senior Services (SESS). SESS worked to meet the changing needs of seniors and caregivers during this difficult time.
Typically, in a non-pandemic year SESS, which is a division of Catholic Community Service, works with local, state and national partners to offer home and community-based services such as nutritious meals, door-to-door transportation, adult day services, case management, senior and caregiver counseling, and a regional senior information and caregiver resource center.
In March 2020, SESS suspended on-site senior center services, including the congregate meals program, in response to safety mandates. Rather than reducing services, Southeast Senior Services took the opportunity to grow and adjust services to meet the needs of seniors as they stayed home to stay safe. All seniors age 60 and older were deemed eligible for home delivered “meals on wheels,” and senior centers doubled and even tripled the number of seniors served with home delivered meals.
As senior center rides were limited to ensure the safety of seniors, SESS drivers offered grocery, mail and prescription delivery to ensure that seniors had those things they needed to maintain their health. Other adjustments to senior center services included outreach phone calls to seniors to combat social isolation and check on their wellness. And across Southeast, “loaner” iPads and training have been made available to seniors through their SESS senior centers so they can connect to family via Zoom and participate in virtual Tai Chi classes provided by SESS.
Over the years, SESS has grown from four senior centers in 1974 to a network of 11 senior centers throughout Southeast Alaska. Nine of the senior centers operate in partnership with the local tribal organization to maximize the days and hours of meal and transportation services for local participants. These local senior centers are run by local senior center managers who are members of the community. There is no charge to participants, and all people age 60 and older are welcome.
With many Southeast communities making great progress in getting people vaccinated, it will not be long before senior centers will be opened to vaccinated seniors for congregate meals and activities.
“We look forward to returning to congregate meals for those who are fully vaccinated, with a target date of July in most of the communities we serve,” said Program Director for Southeast Senior Services Marianne Mills.
For information about a specific senior center location, please visit http://www.ccsak.org/southeast-senior-services.html
For information about Southeast Senior Services, please visit http://www.ccsak.org/all-of-southeast-alaska.html
The author wants to express gratitude to the Catholic Community Services Executive Director Erin Walker-Tolles, and Southeast Senior Services Program Director Marinanne Mills, for their collaboration on this article.