For months, senior citizens in Central Florida have been protecting themselves from the coronavirus by staying at home. However, by spending months in isolation, some seniors have been inadvertently exposed to other health threats such as depression, anxiety, feelings of increased fear, and loneliness. Luckily, the Senior Resource Alliance (SRA) has resources available to help seniors in need.
The SRA is a nonprofit that oversees state and federal funding to provide resources for seniors in Central Florida. The organization serves seniors in Brevard, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties who are 60 years of age or older. Their goal is to develop, monitor, coordinate, and evaluate resources available for elders in these counties to enable them to age with dignity and independence. Most SRA services center around food insecurity, case management, home visits, home management, access to homes in safe areas, and wellness programs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the SRA has put initiatives in place to serve and protect seniors such as Meals of Love – their partnership with local restaurants to deliver approved, nutritious meals directly to homebound seniors. During the worst times of the pandemic, the initiative served over 2,500 meals a day with funding from the Cares Act. Another initiative delivers groceries directly to seniors’ homes.
To support seniors’ mental health, the SRA has initiated telephone reassurance calls and the PEARLS program. Telephone reassurance calls are one-on-one calls that give seniors a friend to talk to and encourage them to do things that are good for them like exercise, sleep and eat well, or call a friend. While telephone reassurance calls are not intended to offer seniors diagnoses, the PEARLS program is available for those who may be showing signs of depression. This program offers one-on-one counseling with a psychiatrist via phone or video and is effective in treating depression and helping with personal accountability.
The SRA also offers virtual workshops to ensure that seniors stay connected. One popular workshop is A Matter of Balance, which teaches seniors how to prevent falls since falling can lead to fractures, lack of mobility, decrease in life enjoyment, depression, or obesity. Another popular workshop is Chronic Disease Management, intended to help seniors who have already been diagnosed manage and maintain healthy lifestyles.
“It’s all about ensuring that the quality of life for seniors is really at the core of everything that we do and ensuring that those years are some of the best years of their lives,” said president and CEO Karla Radka. “It’s about not only providing services directly to seniors but also to caregivers because they play such an important role.”
The SRA’s biggest goal is for seniors to be healthy, strong, and cognitive so that they are able to remain in their own homes and age in place. The SRA believes that seniors thrive if they are in their own environments. However, the SRA also offers services such as pet therapy or electronic pets for those seniors who are already experiencing signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. They also provide seniors with MP3s or iPads stocked with music of their choice. Radka says seniors find the most comfort in listening to songs from when they were in their 20s because that music is usually associated with happy and independent feelings.
The SRA’s initiatives have received a huge response. Their restaurant initiative has allowed them to distribute over 176,000 meals seven days a week in Central Florida. Their telephone reassurance call program has made over 100,000 calls, and their online workshops have reached over 550 seniors. They hope to continue to provide and develop their resources, with a particular focus on mental health.
For Lake Nona residents interested in supporting the Senior Resource Alliance’s initiatives, Radka suggests staying connected with seniors by calling the seniors in your area and showing compassion for their concerns during this pandemic. Other ways to help include providing seniors or their family members and caregivers with access to or knowledge of the SRA’s resources, volunteering on meal runs, or donating items that can be delivered to seniors, such as hygiene products.
For more information regarding available resources and access to assistance, please call the ELDER Helpline at 1-800-96-ELDER (35337) or visit https://www.seniorresourcealliance.org/.