HONESDALE, PA — Taking a moment to honor the community’s older residents, as Wayne County does each May for Older Americans Month, seemed especially fitting after such a difficult …
HONESDALE, PA — Taking a moment to honor the community’s older residents, as Wayne County does each May for Older Americans Month, seemed especially fitting after such a difficult year.
“During this past year, we received a lot of calls from the community because they were worried about older adults, because they were so vulnerable during [the pandemic] and they really wanted to know what they could do to help,” Area Agency of Aging director Mary Ursich told the Wayne County Commissioners on May 20. “And a lot of our local businesses really stepped up with food delivery [and] prescription delivery that [were] so essential to older adults during this time.”
Ursich said that the theme of Older Americans Month this year is “communities of strength” to show appreciation for the collaborative efforts among local government, businesses and residents during the worst of COVID-19.
People often describe the offset of the pandemic as “the world shutting down.” But in Ursich’s department, things were possibly busier than ever in order to meet the increased need for home-delivered and pick-up meals.
Seeing the extra need throughout the agency, staff member Maggie Kielar had the idea for a sponsor-a-senior
program, which allowed community members and other entities to make a weekly donation of $12.50 per week. Not only has the agency used this money to feed older residents but they also set up a program to purchase pet food and deliver it to homebound seniors with animals.
“The drive was an immediate success. Within the five first days last March, we raised $3,840,” Kielar said. “We received donations from county employees, community members, nursing homes, townships, nonprofits, foundations, small businesses, grocery stores, even local restaurants that were struggling with having to shut down.”
Kielar said that the “most memorable” donation came from a 9-year-old girl who mailed in half of her birthday money and with a card that read, “I hope this helps, and don’t worry. Everything is going to be OK.”
The aging agency is continuing to receive donations. As of last week, it’s raised more than $16,000.
“We had no idea how generous people could be during this time,” Ursich said. “We’re so grateful.”
As the situation with the pandemic has evolved, so has the department’s role in helping older citizens. Most recently, Ursich said it’s been “all hands on deck” getting seniors set up with vaccination appointments.
“It was a struggle for older adults when they were confused about the process to get the vaccine, and I think that our staff was very key in helping those especially who didn’t have internet access,” Ursich said. “And even recently helping people who are homebound have someone to go to them to give them the vaccine.”
The commissioners thanked the entire staff for its work, which they said can be complex and beneficial on multiple levels.
“Not only is it a meal but it’s also a brief conversation for a lot of people who may not have had much social interaction at all for quite some time and are feeling very lonely and frustrated because of it,” commissioner Joe Adams said. “We’re a county that has a higher percentage of aging people and a bigger need [geographically], because you just can’t walk down the street and go visit somebody; a lot of people are miles, and miles and miles away.”
In keeping with the theme of feeding older adults, the Area Agency on Aging recently announced its plans to operate the Senior Farmers’ Market Voucher Program this year, with some changes to the way the vouchers are made available due to the COVID-19 conditions.
Each year, the PA Department of Agriculture provides vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Pennsylvania. Each eligible recipient receives four $6 checks to redeem at qualified farmers’ markets or roadside stands.
To be eligible, individuals must be a Wayne County resident, be 60 years or older by December 31 and meet household income guidelines, which for 2020 are $23,606 for one person and $31,894 for two people.
Applications need to be completed, including signature and date of birth and sent to the Wayne County Area Agency on Aging, 323 Tenth St., Honesdale 18431. Applications will be processed and vouchers will be mailed on or about Thursday, July 1.
Applications are available online at www.waynecountypa.gov or by calling the aging office at 570/253-4262 to request an application by mail.