WESTFIELD – As the classic James Taylor song says – “You’ve Got A Friend.”
Seniors in the city are reminded that advice and assistance is at their fingertips weekdays by calling the Westfield Council on Aging office.
“We have found that many of our participants were doing quite well back in April and May,” said Tina Gorman, executive director, Westfield Council on Aging/Westfield Senior Center. “As the summer turned to fall and fall to winter, they realized that we’re in a marathon and not a sprint.”
Gorman noted that more than 2,000 well-being phone calls have been made to senior center participants since the pandemic began. The call sheet has been developed from using the participant lists from the congregate lunch program, fitness classes, Bingo, choral group, card and billiards players, support groups and Companion Program.
Gorman said that most of the seniors have been called three or four times and those who are in crisis are referred to outreach coordinator Joanne Ortegas. For seniors who lack family support, they are called more frequently.
“Now we’re finding that people fluctuate with their emotions and psychological frame of mind, depending on their fatigue level, family dynamics, the weather, and their overall health,” said Gorman.
Gorman added that one of the issues she is “most concerned” about is caregiver burnout, particularly spouses as caregivers.
“We have a number of spouses who are caring for older adults with multiple physical disabilities and/or progressive dementia,” said Gorman. “Caregiving, in and of itself, can be isolating. But the fact that these couples are sheltering in place, creates even more isolation which can lead to anxiety and depression.”
Gorman said this situation can be exacerbated if the individuals lack a support system.
“Children and grandchildren may live out of the area,” said Gorman, adding, “and the older that a couple is, the more likely that close friends and relatives are also older and managing their own health issues.”
With the onset of winter and the pandemic raging on, Gorman wants to remind seniors they have an outlet to reach out to during the week for information and referrals if necessary.
“The Council on Aging can serve as a first stop,” said Gorman, adding, “We don’t provide all of the necessary services, but we can point older adults and their families in the right direction.”
Gorman noted that if a referral doesn’t work out, call the office back and staff members will help them figure out a “Plan B.”
“Plan ahead and be proactive whenever possible,” said Gorman. “A crisis will limit your options. Whether it’s health related, a housing issue, or support services, it is easier for the Council on Aging staff to assist an older adult and his or her family with exploring options when we all have time to process the information.”
With the senior center on Noble Street closed to the public for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic, inclement winter weather will primarily effect the curbside meal program, according to Gorman.
“If we have warning of an impending snowstorm, we will make every effort to offer multiple meals in advance of the storm,” she said, adding that unless City Hall is closed because of a dangerous weather advisory, the Council on Aging staff will report to work but the meal may be canceled.
Gorman said if a meal cancellation is necessary due to local road and senior center parking lot conditions, the announcement will be made on WGGB News 40, WWLP TV 22, and WSHM CBS 3, as well as WSKB radio 89.5 FM, local cable Channel 15 WCPC, and posted on the city’s website – www.cityofwestfield.org by 7 a.m.
On a related note, Gorman said Mary Cohutt, clerk, and Joyce Peregrin, companion program coordinator, have developed a list of available transportation resources.
“Many of our seniors are also having both their groceries and medications delivered,” said Gorman, adding, “Joyce has set that up for them.”
For more information on any service or general information, call (413) 562-6435.