Serving a population that’s at the highest risk for complications from Covid-19, the Holliston Senior Center has been working to adapt its services to the current “new normal.”
“It is certainly challenging about the programming, and the group that we serve, it’s likely to be awhile before (we can open),” says Linda Marshall, Director of the Holliston Senior Center.
Staff is still working, albeit from phones wired to their own homes, calling and checking in on the most vulnerable of the population it serves.
“Most of our reaching out is one on one, through phone calls and checking in,” says Marshall, “and we also have Facebook.”
The Holliston Senior Center has recently begun working with Holliston Cable Access Television (HCAT) in offering some exercise classes on their Fios and Comcast channels, which will also be offered on the HCAT website, www.hcattv.org.
“We will be setting up a Pilates class on there and an indoor walking group, and our elder law presentations. One of the other things HCAT is doing is broadcasting all the local worship, a virtual worship service,” says Marshall.
Services are offered live on Sunday mornings, according to HCAT director Bruce Gilfoy, at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Later, services will be posted on the HCAT web page.
In addition to virtual programming, the Holliston Senior Center is continuing to offer its meal program.
“Now, we don’t have our diners coming to us; we come to them” says Marshall. “Twice a week our caterer comes in and puts together the meal into a Styrofoam container, and it’s packaged by our van drivers into a plastic bag with a bottle of water and a roll. They all have a scheduled list, and our outreach coordinator delivers the meals. It’s also a well-being check.”
Recipients of the meals are generally “somebody that would struggle to make a meal for themselves,” says Marshall, who adds that the senior center’s outreach coordinator is responsible for the list, which includes, “Some of the people who were originally coming for lunch. We knew some of those people, who, for a variety of reasons are not able to make a meal, or people who might have picked up prepped meals.”
The cost of the meals is usually a donation, but Marshall notes, “Because we didn’t want cash changing hands, we are in the process of sending out a letter asking if people are able to donate just as if they were coming to the senior center. It’s not mandatory. We don’t want affordability to be a factor, but some would normally be paying that donation.”
The senior center is also continuing to offer transportation through the Metrowest Regional Transit Authority for essential needs.
“If you need a prescription, we’ll either take you or do it for you, and for shopping, we’ll take you during senior hours,” says Marshall, adding that many doctor appointments have been postponed or are being done virtually, but transportation is available for such things as dialysis or oncology. Passengers, limited to three right now, and the drivers, Holliston town employees, must all wear masks, and seats are blocked off for social distancing.
Overall, the change “has really been a challenge,” says Marshall, as even within the seniors she serves, “they’re divided about technology. The younger are more likely to use technology in some capacity, but 80 and above, it diminishes significantly, and those are more concerning. They have in general more needs and more health issues.”
Marshall encourages people who are concerned about an older person in town to call or have them call the Holliston Senior Center. The number is (508) 429-0622.
“I think it’s very important, that as a community, we’re there for each other,” says Marshall. Not only is the senior center there for its members, she says, but its members are there for the community. “We have a group of crafters who have been making cloth face masks from the beginning, providing them to patients and meals on wheels volunteers (and recipients), all the folks who get lunch from us, other groups in town and to employees in town. Seniors are also able to give back and stay safe. And it’s important we can foster, for the ones who can do something, to give back, to do that, and that helps their health and well-being.”