By Gail Evans
Okay, fellow seniors, we’re in the vulnerable category. And adding to our COVID-19 vulnerability are other worries—where and how to get food, especially if ordering from grocery stores is a budget drainer; how to stretch our dollars in these uncertain times; how to stay sane, human and connected; how to pass the weary time indoors. Luckily, there are resources.
A real find is Senior Resources (www.seniorresourcesnycCOVID19.org). This comprehensive online collection of links to information about how to survive and even thrive during these times is well worth a visit. You’ll find sections on Benefits and Social Services, Managing Care and Conflict, Culture and Amusements, Living Better and more—everything from how to set up online banking and use Google Docs to spiritual tools, health guidance and cheering videos. Kudos to developers Gray Panthers, a senior advocacy organization, and the Florence Belsky Charitable Foundation.
Another must-visit is Senior Planet (www.seniorplanet.org), a lifeline to seniors offering on-line programs, classes, support and entertainment to keep you happily involved for hours.
Hotlines and Helplines
Aging Connect (212-244-6469) offers information about accessing services and programs for older adults through the New York City Department for the Aging. If phone wait-time is too long, you can press 1 to be connected to 311, the City’s helpline for all services.
Henry Street Settlement House Helpline (347-493-2787) offers assistance with meal delivery and support for seniors, mental health, navigating SNAP, applying for emergency cash assistance, and housing and rent issues.
Meal and Food Delivery Help
Meals-on-Wheels. Henry Street Settlement (the main City-funded provider of meals-on-wheels to the Village) and other City-funded home-delivered meals providers are continuing to deliver meals-on-wheels to existing clients. The program is accepting new clients who meet eligibility requirements for ongoing service. (Call NY Foundation case management at (212-962-7817 for eligibility assessment). If you only need meal delivery because of the City’s lock-down your better bet for contribution-based meals is GetFoodNYC (see below).
Senior Centers. All senior centers are shuttered, and their meal operations have been folded into the City’s GetFoodNYC program. If you are an existing senior center member (registered before March 17) you should be receiving meals from GetFoodNYC by the time this paper goes to press. You needn’t apply. You were automatically enrolled in the program and your food delivery service will continue until centers re-open.
GetFoodNYC delivers free meals to COVID-19 vulnerable seniors who are not receiving home-delivered meals from another source. Call 311 or Aging Connect (212-244-6469) to ask for GetFood.
Invisible Hands/St. John’s in the Village is an extraordinary collaboration that Father Graeme Napier describes in the article below. COVID-19 vulnerable Village residents with no one to help them shop can contact Invisible Hands online (www.invisiblehands.com) to place grocery orders and have their orders delivered to their homes by volunteers. But if an an at-risk individual doesn’t have internet access? Then Saint John’s steps in to make the connection! Seniors who can’t go online and who aren’t currently receiving home-delivered meals can call St. John’s at 929-292-9235 between 3pm and 5 pm weekdays to place their orders. The Church will arrange for Invisible Hands’ volunteers to shop and deliver their food. Better yet, the Church will generously pay for folks’ groceries and expect repayment only when the crisis is over.
Help with Money worries
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is not as well-utilized by seniors as it should be. SNAP can be a big help if you’re a live-alone senior and your monthly income is under $1,915 or if you’re a two-person household with an older person and your combined annual income is under $31,020. Why miss out on this benefit? You get significant savings in food costs, and there’s a medical expenses deduction from your gross income when considering your eligibility that will also increase your SNAP benefits. Apply online (nyc.gov/accesshra), or speak to a social worker at Henry Street Settlement (347-493-2787), NY Foundation (212-962-7817) or Greenwich House (212-777-3555) for help navigating the system.
New York City’s Senior Rent Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE) is another underutilized senior benefit. If you’re eligible, SCRIE will freeze your current rent and give your landlord a tax credit for increases. Call 311, download an application at accessnyc.gov, or get help from social workers at Henry Street Settlement (347-493-2787), NY Foundation (212-962-7817) or Greenwich House (212-777-3555 ext. 119).
The City’s Friendly Visiting Program through the Department for the Aging has transitioned from in-person to virtual and telephone-based visits. Volunteers call seniors with whom they’re matched two to three times a week. Call Aging Connect (212-244-6469) to access a provider or NY Foundation case management at 212-962-7817.
Greenwich Village-based Visiting Neighbors is a small, caring organization that’s been helping Village seniors stay independent and connected for almost 50 years. Call 212-260-6200 to talk, to arrange for ongoing assistance, to be reassured that you are not alone.
DOROT Caring Calls, an off-shoot of DOROT’s Friendly Visiting program, brings warmth, conversation and social connection to isolated seniors during the current pandemic. It provides phone visiting once or twice a week for a four-week period. Call 212-769-2859 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to Senior Resources and Senior Planet (see above), I recommend the classes and groups now offered on-line by Greenwich House Senior Centers. I raved about Greenwich House programs in my last column. Now you can explore this resource online (www.greenwichhouse.org).
DOROT University Without Walls offers seniors opportunities to participate over-the-telephone in hundreds of classes and groups facilitated by leading experts. There are no enrollment fees but you do have to register at 877-819-9147 or online (www.dorotusa.org).