Disproportionately housebound and managing with insufficient resources, seniors at APAH properties are isolated with limited capacity to get what they need to stay physically and mentally healthy.
Isolation, depression, and loneliness have disrupted the lives of residents as they are separated from their friends and family. While smartphones can be a lifeline for social connectivity, many seniors don’t have one or struggle with anything but basic voice calls. This was recognized as an issue before the pandemic, and APAH’s resident service program had to cancel a smartphone workshop to be held in spring due to social distancing and safety concerns.
Venus Burgess, one of APAH’s resident service coordinators, is focused on meeting the needs of our senior residents. Making wellness calls daily, Venus and other staff have had at least one phone conversation with each of our seniors letting them know APAH is able to assist during this pandemic. “It’s nice to talk to a person sometimes,” said Madelyn, a senior at Fisher House. She told Venus she misses seeing her neighbors when she goes for walks and she has nobody else to talk to. “It’s a great thing you’re doing, calling and checking up on us.”
Volunteers are helping Venus meet the needs of our seniors and can act as a critical connection for many senior residents. In fact, in the coming weeks, all senior residents will have fun activities safely dropped at their doors to stay mentally engaged. The activity packets will include adult coloring books, crossword puzzles, and magazines all delivered by volunteers.
Just like families, senior residents are worried about their financial security. After a wellness call with Venus, Gyammaa was connected to the Arlington Department of Human Services for rental assistance when she shared she couldn’t afford all of May’s rent. “I called and talked to someone and they approved the balance. On that same day, I was tested for COVID-19 and it was negative. I had so many reasons to be happy,” she said.
Venus and APAH’s other Resident Services Coordinators are actively connecting residents of all ages to a variety of resources in addition to rental assistance, like additional groceries, prepared meals and free educational material. But, some of these additional resources come with their own challenges. As all facets of life become virtual and electronic, residents are faced with digital barriers. Access to internet and knowing how to use digital tools challenge many residents, who often work with resident service coordinators by phone to fill out paperwork and ask questions.
Residents who struggle with English face even more difficulties, particularly those who don’t speak English but are also unable to read. While some translating services are available, the amount of support is not proportionate to the need as paperwork becomes digital.
Overall, APAH’s resident community continues to face compounding challenges. While Northern Virginia entered Phase I of reopening on Friday, May 29th, the rebound to “normal” is at a distance. The digital divide affects the community en masse, and will continue to do so while social distancing is recommended for the long-term. Residents are amassing debt, uncertainty and stress, and these cannot be fixed by any simple measure. Our staff are doing everything they can, but we still look to systemic changes. While the pandemic emphasizes disparities in the low-income communities, they have been there all along.
It is because of past financial support from our donors and neighbors that we have been able to meet some of these immediate needs of our residents. APAH will need additional support from our friends and donors to support residents’ increased health, housing, safety, wellness, and stability needs during this difficult time of prolonged financial distress. Please consider making a donation to APAH to support these immediate and ongoing resident needs. For information about volunteering during the pandemic, please email Julie Booth, our Volunteer Program Manager.