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Adams Council on Aging Looking Out For Seniors

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — Although the Visitors Center is shut down, the Council on Aging has continued to look after area seniors.
Council on Aging Director Erica Girgenti said COVID-19 has created new challenges for seniors and elder services throughout the country are finding new ways to protect the community's most vulnerable.  
"The feedback we're getting is starting to change. Within the first few weeks, it was optimistic, we got a lot of 'we're OK.' Now we're getting more expressed sadness," she said. "We need to do more to lift the spirits of others. By offering a good deed, we lift our own spirit. Those we've been in touch with are grateful. When you can hear a smile through the phone you know it was worth the effort."
Girgenti said she knows of seniors who segregated from family and friends and missing the exercise of leaving their home. She said something as simple as not being able to go to the Council on Aging to play a game of cards is a detriment to many.
"In those two to three hours spent there, they would have participated in the activities of daily living that encouraged them to get up, groomed, dressed, into their car and down to the center," she said. "While here they would have used their voice to hold numerous conversations, facial muscles to both speak, smile, and laugh. A good game of cards would have had them thinking critically for their next play. Now, none of that is happening, or at least perhaps only some."
COVID-19 has also disrupted the social connections many seniors have and Girgenti said although many are finding ways to cope, others aren't.  
"Some people crave the socialization I fear they are not following the 'only go to the store when absolutely necessary' warning," she said. "Many are still making that daily trip to the market and I wish they wouldn't." 
Girgenti said they are continuing efforts to keep seniors indoors and, for the most part, Councils on Aging are continuing food programs such as the grab-and-go-style Elder Services Meals on Wheels program. She said the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has continued to support the brown bag programs and the Mobile Food Banks.
"Food is reachable and obtainable. There is a concern that when some individuals wait long enough to finally go out to the store what they need is not there, like toilet paper, cleaning supplies and thermometers," she said. "We have been getting a lot of calls for those items. People don't want to drive store to store to find them, it further risks their potential exposure to the virus.
The Adams Council on Aging also administers an emergency grant from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation called Neighbor to Neighbor.
"Thanks to their donors, we just increased our grant distribution and are allowed to offer assistance upwards to $1,000 to those in need, toward a variety of areas," she said. 
Girgenti said they are also trying to make a point to contact all seniors and volunteers are running through the entire database.
She urges everyone to be aware of those who may be shut in.
"All anyone has to do is look into their neighborhood to see Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones vehicle not leave the driveway as much as it had," she said. "They don't have libraries to go to, pool halls, local sport games, convenient store stops, etc. Even those with grandchildren locally can't see them right now, if they are being safe."
She said it is still possible to practice social isolation and be social. Councils on Aging are pooling resources and ideas on how to make this easier for area seniors.
Technology is a great tool but noted many seniors do not know how to interact remotely or have access to the internet or devices.
"As we know the internet isn't available to everyone in Berkshire County and to many who can have access to it, they can't get the one-on-one support to learn how to use it or perhaps they can't afford it," she said. "We certainly don't have all the answers and we're finding many more challenges to address then ever before. The landline can be a wonderful tool."
Girgenti also encouraged seniors to do what they can to stay active 
"Staying active will not only keep their immune systems stronger but it will help them to return or keep to their normal or baseline once these restrictions lift," she said. "Something as simple as continuing to get in and out of your car several times a day can be good routine practice. We often underestimate the muscles we use to perform normal daily activities."
She urged that those with access to the internet look for virtual offerings but noted there are plenty of ways to stay active around the house.
"While I am not a fitness instructor, I think it's safe to say they can use the tools they have," she said. "They can practice getting up and down from their chair, stretch, do arm circles, lift cans as if they were weights and if they can safely navigate stairs then set a goal of how many times they can climb them in a day."
Girgenti said staying mentally active is just as important and urged seniors to turn off the television and start a puzzle or pick up a book.
She said she is proud of Adams and the greater region and how it has stepped up to protect the community's most vulnerable.
"Saying I am impressed would be an understatement," she said. "Town borders are breaking down, there are more conversations about how 'we' can accomplish something and less about what you have and I have for services. ...
"Speaking for Adams, I think we're doing the best we can with what we have but we will continue to strive for more."

Tags: COA,   COVID-19,   

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By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent

Officer Josh Baker reads from a portion of the new three-year union contract that was ratified by the Selectmen on Wednesday night.
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