SCCIn – Senior Center Coalition of Indiana

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Senior Center Coalition of Indiana

Welcome to our temporary home on the Mill Race Center website. This landing page will be your source for updates about the coalition as we grow in membership and activities.

At this point, the coronavirus called COVID-19 has disrupted almost all operations. So we are launching this page with news and updates designed to support senior center leaders as you continue to provide services in a restricted environment.

ARE YOU PREPARING TO RE-OPEN YOUR SENIOR CENTER? READ ON

There are currently four underlying principles that are universally included in guidelines:

  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • Physically distance yourself from others. At the moment, the recommended distance is a minimum of 6 feet.
  • Wear a mask for the protection of others.
  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.

Points to Consider:

Physical distancing will likely be the new norm until better testing and a vaccine become available.

New protocols for public gatherings will have to be developed. These might include fever screening, masks and gloves. Follow guidance from the Indiana State Department of Health and coordinate with your county health department.
In the earliest phase of your re-opening, consider limiting the performance of all tasks to staff members only, if possible.

Cleaning regimens will have to be implemented. Surface transmission seems to be less likely than was initially believed, but it is still possible. It is recommended that activities that require the touching of shared surfaces, or close proximity be discontinued. Cards, puzzles, etc., fall into that category. Even the most rigorous cleaning is not likely to kill all pathogens including COVID-19; your guests need to bear that in mind. Please see “Potential Strategies” below regarding informed attendance.

In order to maintain recommended minimum physical distance, centers will have to determine new maximum occupancy based on square footage, furniture placement (and/or removal), and type of activity. Which activities require close contact or touching? They will have to be curtailed for the foreseeable future.
Be sure to factor in new use restrictions if your center is a site for other purposes, such as event rentals and community meetings.

Potential Strategies:

  1. Educate and train your staff, and ensure that there is an adequate supply of facemasks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment. Also, for the protection of staff and guests,
    • Establish and enforce the need to report changes in health condition or suspected contact with the COVID-19 virus
    • Sanitize the receptionist phone after shift; if possible, assign one person to one phone
    • Establish protocols for handling money/mail
    • Reinforce safe food handling procedures.
  2. Balance the number of guests and activities with available staff. As you gain experience with operating under safety protocols, incorporate experienced volunteers and scale up accordingly.
  3. Work closely with local health officials. Is it possible for a public health representative to be present for the first days of operation to observe precautions as well as assist in trouble-shooting and problem-solving?
  4. Check ventilation systems to make sure they operate properly; increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible. If your center has not been used at all during the shutdown period, consult a ventilation expert on restarting systems such as air conditioning to avoid launching molds and bacteria (e.g., Legionnaire’s) from stagnant water into the air.
  5. Ensure compliance with room capacities. Post limits prominently.
  6. Limit liability exposure: seek legal advice for wording on signage that states the center cannot guarantee that participants will not come into contact with someone who has the infection, despite best efforts. Some centers have discussed the use of signed waivers.
  7. Evaluate center’s use by outside organizations, balancing possible revenue against stricter standards for sanitizing and maintaining physical distancing. Be sure rules for use of the center are clearly understood by staff and guests. Consider posting rules at all outside and inside doorways.
  8. Factor in additional time and cost for cleaning supplies and labor. Grants may be available for COVID-related expenses. Organize fund-raising around re-opening the center.
  9. Give careful consideration to movement within the center, and look for potential bottlenecks that can cause people to be in close proximity – for instance, entrances to restrooms or short or narrow hallways. Taped floor markings can be an effective reminder. Is it feasible to have a staff member check restrooms (and spot-clean) after use? Controlling the number of people who are in the center at any one time is an essential step in enforcing physical distancing.
  10. Develop an action plan in the event that new cases are identified in your facility: closure, contact tracing and notification, staff assignments, etc.
  11. Add classes that will give program participants the tools needed to access virtual learning and programming opportunities, such as classes for Zoom, Skype, etc.
  12. Don’t underestimate the new skills and programs that you have developed during the service interruptions and lockdowns. Assess the strategies and virtual programs that have worked during service interruptions and determine if they will still be valid for people with limited mobility, even after centers re-open.
  13. Share information with staff and guests on the proper care of reusable cloth masks. They should be washed frequently in very hot water and dried on a high setting, if possible. If they are hand-washed, use hot water and scrub both sides thoroughly. Allow to dry completely.
  14. Prepare participants for the possibility of scaling back programs if needed once you have been able to see how your precautionary steps are working (or not!).
  15. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Need to help your members and others to sort through confusing information about COVID-19? Dr. Stacie Wenk, former head of the Indiana State Medical Association, can help. Watch her interview with Mill Race Center’s Dan Mustard.

Results of the COVID-19 Survey

SCCIn recently polled senior center leaders around Indiana about their operations during the shutdown imposed by COVID-19. Thank you to everyone who contributed to our impressive 45% response rate (46 complete/103)! The survey received very broad geographic and demographic response. We feel confident that the results summarized here are representative of what senior centers are experiencing throughout Indiana during this public health challenge.

Highlights:

  • Loneliness was top concern among senior center clients
  • About 40% of respondents used social media or other online technology to deliver programming and messages to clients (from Q 6 – adapting service delivery)
  • Leaders overwhelmingly lauded staffs for dedication and flexibility to keep contact with members who lack family or other support networks

Quantitative data:

For Q 7, safe delivery of services, virtually everyone who has maintained direct contact with clients is observing prescribed protective and sanitation protocols. Some centers have partnered with third party handlers.

Regarding Q 8, services that you are NOT delivering, in a vast majority of cases, programming has ceased with the following exceptions: (1) programs that can be delivered virtually, such as exercises, Bible study, and some education; (2) meal services; and (3) essential transportation.

Lessons Learned

This qualitative question prompted a range of answers, the top five of which appear below:

  • Senior centers are essential to a community
  • We have a deeper understanding of the vulnerability of seniors
  • Not everyone is equally concerned about the crisis
  • Our staffs are amazing
  • The human spirit is tough, resilient, indomitable
Frequently Asked Questions

We invited a panel of senior center leaders* with a wide array of experience to answer your questions specifically about serving senior adult clients during the COVID-19 crisis. To submit questions, email covid19questions@millracecenter.org. The goal is to post answers twice a week for now; the frequency will change as necessary.

(Updated 4/23/2020)

  • As senior center professionals, we’ve known that what we do is key to combating loneliness among older adults. Now, we have the COVID-19 survey data for support (see above). What is the best way to leverage both our experience and our data with funders and our boards?

It is important to combine the data with the success stories that we know. Instead of telling donors we offer “more than bingo”, we can also demonstrate the value of recreational programming like bingo. Social isolation can lead to serious health problems and our programs make a difference in the lives of older adults. If our recreational programs reduce isolation, that can improve health outcomes. Our seniors appreciate the opportunity to tell others about how the programs we offer benefit them. Ask them to tell their stories. Then, share them with donors. Some donors need you to speak to their minds (data) and others want you to speak to their hearts (stories).

  • How does my center keep donations coming in while our services are reduced or curtailed during the COVID-19 epidemic?

As we all know, the key to fundraising is all about relationships. Maintaining good communication is always critical to relationships. If you are providing programming relevant to the epidemic, it is important to share this with your donors and community so that they are aware that you are still providing services.
– Communicate with local foundations, individual donors and the community using social media and e-newsletters. Describe how your work and your services have changed during this crisis.
– Stay in contact with your funders so you know if they are changing priorities to account for the COVID 19 epidemic.
– Communicate how you are helping seniors during this critical time.
– Communication is important, even if you don’t anticipate a gift at this time. Many of our individual donors and small business supporters are struggling with the economic reality right now. You should be sensitive to these challenges and consider their reality before asking for support. Instead, maybe now is a good time to check in on donors and make sure they are doing okay instead of asking for a gift. We can all revisit our fundraising schedules in May or June.

  • What do we do about clients who still think everyone is overreacting to the COVID-19 epidemic?

(All three panelists weighed in on this one. Answers have been edited for length.)

I think it takes time for people to make decisions and come to conclusions, especially when the decision impacts so much of their lives. I believe that most people want what is best for themselves and their neighbors. Communication is important. When people know that you are making changes with their best interest in mind, even if they disagree, they will appreciate your care and concern.

[C]ommunication is key, just be sincere. Don’t try to argue the issue. I would add that it is important to keep politics and political commentary out of it. As a non-profit we have to watch that, but it is important at this time to make this about EACH of US. I recommend asking respected leaders to speak, maybe do a public service announcement for the local radio station.

Unfortunately, until it hit close to home some won’t believe it. Depression is setting in for some which is a big concern of mine with my older adult clientele. Idle time=Idle minds. We are going to put together a challenge for some that I know do not have any family. They are contacting us daily with one word describing their day. This gives them something to look forward to, may help us figure their mind set for the day, and see if we need to follow up.

[I]t made an impact when we started wearing masks and gloves. We are passing out meals in a drive-thru fashion. We are also passing out groceries from our pantry. When they see us do it, they start to think about it.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is fatiguing to all who are on the front lines, including senior center leaders. What are some suggestions for keeping our energy up indefinitely?

Normally, teambuilding activities and celebrations re-energize our team. In our office, a shared lunch helps us reconnect and renew when things get tough. Those options are off the table when we work from home, work split hours in the office, and strive to stay six feet apart. Right now, I think we all need to be reminded of our “why” and the reason behind our work. Encourage everyone to tell stories that demonstrate the “why”, and share self-care tips that remind staff to do things they enjoy. Lastly, express gratitude to the team. Emails, phone calls, chat messages, and even cards that express appreciation can brighten someone’s day.

*Meet the panel:
Patti Davis: Manager, Fort Wayne Community Center
Beverly Ferry: Chief Executive Officer, Living Well in Wabash County COA, Inc.
Marina Keers: Executive Director, Hendricks County Senior Services

Contact Us

In Summer 2019, staff at Mill Race Center in Columbus, sent out the survey that many of you answered. An overwhelming majority of respondents (94%) expressed interest in exploring a statewide association to advocate for senior centers in Indiana. We are in the formative stages under the working title Senior Center Coalition of Indiana – SCCIn. Please contact any member of planning committee below if you have questions, comments, or ideas.

Dan Mustard, Executive Director
dmustard@millracecenter.org

Bob Pitman, Executive Director Emeritus
bjecp@aol.com

Deborah Jones, Meeting Coordinator
djones@millracecenter.org