Several homebound senior citizens in Butler County have been receiving a monthly activity box throughout the pandemic, aimed at keeping them engaged while at home.
The Butler County Agency on Aging distributes the boxes containing crafts, pegboard activities and puzzle booklets through a grant from the Administration for Community Living, which is expiring in September. The agency is looking for new ways to safely engage with senior citizens.
“We were very concerned when COVID hit, what the effects of the social isolation would do,” Agency on Aging administrator Beth Herold said. “Some of them are still scared to come into the centers, and really, we don't want the centers bursting at the seams right now anyway.”
The Agency on Aging provides human services to residents of Butler County over 60 years old. While senior centers in the county were closed for a period last year, the Agency on Aging has been hosting small activities since March.
Herold said keeping seniors healthy is one of the main goals of the agency. One of the biggest needs it has been filling since last year comes in the form of grab-and-go meals, which are packs of food the center has been providing to about 200 senior citizens a day.
“Social Security and retirements have remained stagnant, but as food prices go up, a lot of times people have to make the decision to pay for their copay on medicines or buying food,” Herold said. “It just makes sense to provide those basic needs.”
In addition to providing meals, the agency also plans group activities that keep the social isolation at bay.
Brittany Gilfillan, senior center supervisor, said some members struggled with feelings of isolation during the pandemic. But the safety measures implemented by the centers allowed for more communication and contact.
“A lot of times the senior center is the only place these individuals come out to,” Gilfillan said.
The agency took senior citizens to the Butler Farm Show, and has activities planned for September.
Gilfillan said the temperature checks and encouragement to social distance may be long-standing policies in senior centers in a post-COVID world. She said some people are not happy with some of the policies, but others are happy the Agency on Aging is focusing on keeping them as safe as possible.
“We do have a good group who is thankful of the things we planned and things to come,” Gilfillan said.