Social isolation is one of the most unfortunate byproducts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, seniors have been a high-risk population for both loneliness and depression. While the recent explosion of new virtual classes and services has allowed most community rec centers to stay engaged with its members while they’re at home, seniors tend to be less tech-savvy, making engagement even more challenging.
After noting several of its senior members have been unable to return to its facility, the Hernando County YMCA, a branch of the YMCA of the Suncoast in the Clearwater, Florida area, came up with a simple, personalized way to combat social isolation.
Beginning August 31, staff and volunteers at the Hernando County Y have been delivering goody bags to 100 seniors in its SilverSneakers® program to give some encouragement and show they are still supporting their members.
“We’re dropping off these goody bags, full of snacks and items put together by some of our community partners, as a way to say we were thinking of our senior members and we missed them,” said Amber Slusser, the executive director of the Hernando County Y.
In addition to giving out some helpful items — through non-contact delivery, of course — the aim of the goody bags is to reduce the social isolation many seniors are feeling.
So far, the response has been positive, according to Slusser. “Overall, members have been pleasantly surprised,” she shared. “They were shocked at first as to why the Y was at their home, but when I shared what we were doing, they were more than tickled.”
Each reusable bag is filled with donated items from community partners of the Hernando County Y, including pens, notepads, snacks and cold compresses, as well as coupons for a free glucose machine or a free chicken sandwich.
More importantly, however, the senior members of the Hernando County Y feel appreciated and know someone cares about them.
“We wanted to stop by to brighten their day,” said Slusser. “They were so appreciative, and their inquisitive looks turned to big smiles. It definitely warms the heart to see them smile.”