All senior centers throughout Harris county are still closed to in-person activities - including NAM's Young at Heart Center. Though they briefly reopened last summer, they closed again shortly after in response to the surge of new covid variants.
“We continue to make those daily wellness calls to our seniors, while our senior center remains closed,” said Grace Jackson, Director of NAM’s Senior Services. “Here in Harris County, the positivity rate is at 38% (as of January 13, 2022) It needs to go down to 2 - 5% before the seniors centers can reopen.”
NAM, however, still continues to find ways to connect with the seniors of our community.
Meals on Wheels is one NAM program that remained operational, even through the 2020 shut down. “Clearly we don’t have the volunteers that we had before the pandemic,” said Grace. “But our core group of volunteers continues to deliver the food each week - including pet food. Our dedicated volunteers continue to help Meals on Wheels connect with our seniors.”
These volunteers deliver food every single week, providing a point of social interaction for many of them, even though the Young at Heart Center is closed. “Do some of them miss their hot meals - especially the ones who’ve been with the program for a long time?” said Grace. “Yes, they miss their hot meals - but they understand, and they are happy that they are continuing to receive frozen and shelf-stable meals.”
Virtual activities continue to be a critical source of social interactions, while the most recent surge in hospitalizations and deaths keep seniors centers closed. “We are just trying to continue keeping our seniors informed about covid updates, and keep them engaged and in contact with each other,” said Eva Galloway, Senior Social Services Supervisor. “Bingo seems to be a very popular activity for them. Many of them have gotten the hang of using zoom, and are less hesitant about using it.”
In response to the need for increased technical support, NAM has found ways to help seniors understand how to connect virtually. “We’ve offered tutorials on how to use Zoom, and some of them have been given tablets through a state program,” said Eva. “We’ve been brainstorming some ideas about what we can do and how to be more creative with our virtual events. It does present quite a challenge, but we are doing the best that we can.”
Though the senior center will remain closed for group events, NAM will bring back in-person tax help in 2022, so that seniors can receive some assistance in filing their taxes.
“AARP has some strict guidelines on what we can do to protect volunteers and clients,” said Eva. “We will be doing it in person, and by appointment only; before the pandemic they used to accept walk-ins, but we will not be offering that this year. There’s a phone number that they can call to arrange an appointment. The tax prep appointments will start February 1st.”
Those interested in signing up for senior services activities can call (281) 885-4600 , or visit our website to learn more information: https://www.namonline.org/seniors