In the face of this unseen danger

By Jeff Thomas

I know you feel pretty stressed these days.  You might be out of work, so you are financially stressed. If you get a fever, you might be forced to shelter at home. Shucks, pretty soon the entire city might be forced to shelter in place. Despite all of these major difficulties, if you are healthy and under 60 you will probably live through this crisis. 

But for seniors, this crisis is life threatening.  For you, being confined to your house is a major inconvenience. However, across the city many seniors are homebound every day. That means they depend upon people to help them survive.  The New Orleans Council on Aging has been servicing the needs of our senior community for nearly 45 years.  Meals on Wheels is just one of the services they provide. In these days of COVID-19, this critical resource is being stressed.

Howard Rodgers, the agency’s Executive Director, still reports to his office daily.  He and his dedicated staff fielded a conference call with leaders from across the city this week.  Coordinating and actually expanding service, the NOCOA plans to continue to feed those homebound seniors whom they help every week.  Additionally, they want to be a resource for other seniors who are suddenly homebound. 

“We are committed to the senior population in this city,” said Rodgers.  “Right now, we are doing everything we can to continue and expand our services, despite funding challenges.”  Drivers and meals are just a part of the process.  Back office personnel make certain correct addresses and effective routes are in place.  Others are doing wellness calls – just talking to seniors about how they are doing. Senior centers, where more mobile older adults congregate for meals are closed but have transitioned to meal pick up locations in some cases.  But some are funded differently and may not be able to continue for the long haul if a dedicated funding source is not found.

We are encouraged to social distance for good reason.  Those daily or weekly family visits could have devastating consequences for our seniors. Wanting to deliver food, a son without any symptoms can unintentionally transfer the virus to his unsuspecting senior mother. The consequences of this good deed are mostly bad. The NOCOA drivers have been trained to alert seniors and distance themselves as the senior retrieves what could be their only hot meal that day. 

During these turbulent times, The New Orleans Council on Aging continues to safely provide hot meals to our senior population.  Rodgers and his skeleton staff are like those heroes who dove into the dirty Katrina waters and rescued citizens who found themselves in distress.  Though the water is clean during this crisis, Rodgers and staff risk contracting the invisible and sneaky virus daily.

“Our seniors need to eat every day,” said Rodgers as he gathered the staff for another conference call.

The New Orleans Council on Aging is a non-profit. 

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