Reaching out

The Office for the Aging launches its ‘OFA on Wheels!’ bus

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 8/17/21

CALLICOON, NY — It was a few hours into the launch of the OFA on Wheels! bus on August 5, and the staff, staying comfortable under a tent in the Callicoon depot parking lot, was ready. The …

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Reaching out

The Office for the Aging launches its ‘OFA on Wheels!’ bus

Posted

CALLICOON, NY — It was a few hours into the launch of the OFA on Wheels! bus on August 5, and the staff, staying comfortable under a tent in the Callicoon depot parking lot, was ready. The brochures were there. Medicare information. People who would explain what the office for the aging did, and how it can help.

But the robo-pets were getting the love - or at least the attention.

“Some love them. Some aren’t so sure,” said director Lise-Anne Deoul.

The office isn’t just about providing cuddly bundles of robotic floof. Don’t underestimate the value of an animatronic pet, though—they’re friendly when you want them to be and quiet when you need that, plus you don’t have to clean up after them. “We’re expecting a very large shipment... they’re especially useful for socially isolated folks,” Deoul said.

Meanwhile, back to the bus, which was dominating the parking lot.

The Sullivan County Office for the Aging provides multiple services and supports to county seniors, and the bus is the next step. It’s trying to bring information about services to people away from the three main villages of Liberty, Monticello and South Fallsburg, especially those who might be without reliable transportation.

“We’re going to people where they are,” Deoul said.

Like so many initiatives developed during the pandemic, the OFA on Wheels! bus was the product of many groups, working together.

Amanda Langseder at Sullivan 180 “approached us in February,” Deoul said, “with an AARP grant.” Sullivan 180 also loaned the program an intern, Samantha Dorn, “who hit the ground running.”

The bus—technically a “mobile classroom”—came from Sullivan BOCES, and the bus itself is owned by Rolling V. Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther’s office provided funds for laptops and internet connectivity.

Dorn is responsible for signing people up for OFA services, scheduling their shots if needed, and getting farmers market coupon books to qualifying seniors. If you aren’t sure what you need, ask, she said. “There’s a plethora of resources for seniors of all demographics.”

A nurse was even on hand that day to administer J&J vaccines; three had been done that morning.

Other groups had joined OFA to get their messages out: Sullivan 180, of course, but also Action Toward Independence (ATI) plus Community Action. ATI promotes the welfare of people with disabilities, and Community Action is focused on eliminating poverty.

As the county’s health rankings have stressed, these are issues that complicate the creation of a healthier Sullivan.

The OFA has a full plate. They have a list of sign-ups for vaccines for the homebound, they run a rental assistance program, are in charge of Meals on Wheels, loan out medical equipment (nice if you’re recovering from a joint replacement) and much more.

“Our staff has remained flexible about doing what needs to be done and asking questions later,” Deoul said.

And, of course, it takes everyone, working together, to make an effort like the bus happen.

“It’s been incredibly fruitful,” said Meaghan Mullally-Gorr, director of health and wellness at Sullivan 180, talking about the partnership. “It’s best to pursue these goals as a unit. There are so many moving parts, so many detours. We won’t make the gains if we don’t work together.”

For more information about the OFA on Wheels!, email Samantha Dorn at sdorn@sullivan180.org or call 845/295-2680.

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