Laura Newland, director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living
Laura Newland, director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living

Last month marked a year since the life of our community changed dramatically and persistently. This unprecedented time has been difficult for all of us and devastating for so many. We’ve lost family members, friends, and neighbors. We’ve seen the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our older residents and communities of color.

This past year has changed much of the way we’ve supported our community including:

– Moving all dining site participants to home-delivered meals and increasing meal delivery capacity to serve 6,600 District seniors! We’ve delivered more than 2 million meals in the past year.
– Launching the brand-new Call & Talk program, currently providing seniors with friendly check-in calls and conversations.
– Supporting citywide efforts with staff dedicated to critical assignments including the Contact Trace Force, Citywide Hotline, and the Board of Elections.
– Launching the Seniors Stay Cool program, making sure that income-eligible seniors could stay home and stay cool during heat emergencies, with A/C repairs and replacements. In one month, the program served nearly 100 seniors.
– Launching the Senior Technology Pilot Program providing iPads and technical support to low income, isolated seniors to allow them to stay connected to family, friends, healthcare, information, and activities.
– Hosting the first-ever Virtual Mayor’s Annual Senior Symposium on Channel 16, which included a special meal delivery for more than 800 seniors.

At the same time, we’ve continued to maintain critical life-sustaining services such as Senior MedExpress, providing transportation to essential medical services for eligible District residents needing to get to their chemotherapy or dialysis appointments in the safest way possible. Our Safe at Home Program also continued to operate, installing more than 1,000 in-home safety adaptations in FY20 and FY21 to date, while strictly adhering to health and safety guidance from DC Health.

The risks of loneliness and isolation increased for all of us, and we’ve had to adjust and meet our emotional risks just as much as our public health risks. Like many of you, I’ve lost dear friends this past year. And I’ve talked with others over the phone and online as they’ve told me of their losses and of their grief.

As we think about how to move forward, we know that there’s no going back to our pre-COVID lives. But this past year has also shown us that how we show up for each other is limited only by our own imaginations. We have an incredible opportunity to use our collective loss, our collective grief, to create a community that is stronger and more equitable for all of us. This past year gave us an opportunity to connect with thousands of seniors who weren’t connected with us before the public health emergency, and DACL has been better because of it. We’ve been making new connections every day. And we want to make even more. If you’re lonely and need connection, let us know. If you have an idea of how DACL can better support the community you want to see, we’d love to hear from you. Call us at 202-724-5626. My team and I can’t wait to chat soon.

With Gratitude,

Vacancies on D.C. Commission on Aging

Are you interested in serving your community as an aging advocate? The District of Columbia Commission on Aging is a citizen’s advisory group to the Mayor, Council of the District of Columbia, Department of Office Aging and Community Living, and the general public on the needs and concerns of older Washingtonians. The Commissioners serve as advocates on behalf of the District’s more than 120,000 seniors and accomplish their responsibilities through outreach to individuals and institutions, as well as to groups and governments.

The Commission’s 15 members are appointed by the Mayor with the advice and consent of the Council of the District of Columbia.

To apply to become a member, visit the Mayor’s Office of Talents and Appointments website

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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