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Senior Connections Empowers Older Richmond-area Adults to Improve their Quality of Life

October 15, 2020

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Since 1973, Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging, a private nonprofit, has worked to empower older adults to live with dignity and choice for an improved quality of life. They are one of 25 area agencies on aging throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia that provide information, advocacy, and direct services to seniors and their families. Their service area is Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan, and the City of Richmond. Like many, COVID-19 has changed the way they are delivering some of these services.

Friendship Café and Home Delivered Meals (HDM) programs provide proper nutrition and social support to individuals over the age of 60. Their Café program is for independent adults who want the opportunity to engage in a social setting. The HDM program is for homebound adults who are unable to prepare nutritional meals.

Ride Connection is a mobility management and transportation program that helps older adults and persons with disabilities have the knowledge of and access to transportation for medical and non-medical needs. Individuals over the age of 60 and under the age of 60 receiving SSA benefits, can receive up to two rides a month to medical appointments as well as information on other transportation resources in the community.

Information & Referral (I and R) and Care Coordination connects older adults, age 60 and over, and their caregivers with long-term support services to help individuals maintain a stable living situation and achieve optimal health. Care Coordinators answer questions, perform assessments, find and coordinate resources, help apply for benefits, and make referrals to internal programs like HDM.

Emergency Services offer financial support to assist older adults at risk of housing or financial instability, however, funds are limited. Other programs, like Senior Employment Services (age 55 and up) help train, support and assist older workers to find and keep employment. Our Benefits Enrollment Center can support individuals on Medicare to access all benefits programs, like Medicaid QMB and SLMB, SNAP, energy assistance programs, which helps maximize limited financial resources.

The Volunteer Money Management Program provides older adults, age 60 and over, support with their monthly bill-paying chores. Trained volunteers visit program participants in their homes each month and assist with budgeting and bill-paying tasks.

Connection programs that also help older adults remain engaged and supported include: Foster Grandparents, volunteer programs, telephone reassurance, caregiver services like support and home care.

Advocacy programs like their public guardianship, ombudsman, senior law days and Medicare fraud and abuse prevention help older adults maintain high quality of life.

Many of their programs are funded through Older Americans Act funds, which directs services to start at age 60. However, there are exceptions to this, including RSVP, Foster Grandparents, Senior Employment and Caregiver Support, Benefits Enrollment Center. Also, some programs serve individuals with disabilities. Senior Connections’ information and referral program is open to all ages. There is no income requirement for services.

Many referrals are received electronically though No Wrong Door Virginia (NWD). NWD is a virtual system and statewide network of shared resources, designed to streamline access to long term services and supports – connecting individuals, providers, and communities across the Commonwealth. Individuals wanting to connect via NWD can do so through the Virginia Navigator website and Direct Connect, and also through emails from their website.

Senior Connections receives most referrals through their intake line at 804-343-3000 where reception staff will determine where to transfer the call. Most are routed to the Information and Referral Staff who take a person-centered approach in listening and making referrals either to internal programs or to external partners.

All I and R calls are answered within 48 hours. Many programs require a Care Coordinator to assess the individual’s needs, and some programs have an application process.

While some services are accessed at no cost to participants based on a sliding scale, donations are requested and appreciated.

Their offices are currently open, but in-person visits are by appointment only.

The Friendship Cafés are closed to in-person programming, but the Café Manager is continuing to support the social/emotional needs of participants. Meals are being provided at home, and a Covid Café has been created to help those in the community with food insecurity.

Senior Connections’ Home Delivered Meals program offers an expanded definition of homebound and unable to prepare meals to ensure those who are homebound due to COVID-19 are eligible. Their Care Coordination staff are doing assessments over the phone and mailing documents.

Ride Connection has expanded transportation so that riders may receive four trips a month to medical appointments or food shopping.

Most all other programs, while continuing to enroll participants, are assisting individuals virtually with limited in person contact.

Find Senior Connections on social media: https://www.facebook.com/seniorconnectionsva/?v=wall

Senior Connections staff pause for a photo while preparing meals to help older adults in the Richmond area.

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