Vail, Eagle County partner to reach out to older residents
Volunteers have reached out to help older residents with everything from food deliveries to friendly phone calls
Security is usually one of the big issues facing older people. But solitude can be dangerous, too.
With the outbreak in Eagle County of the COVID-19 virus, a number of people, including older residents, have lost a significant part of their contact with others. That’s where the Eagle County Healthy Aging office can help.
The office has just two full-time people: Pat Nolan and Carly Rietmann. These days, they’re getting a lot of help from volunteers and the town of Vail. According to county information, Vail has the largest population of people older than 60 of any town in the valley.
On edge and looking for answers
Nolan recalled a conversation with town officials in the early days of the outbreak. The question was ,“How can we help you help the seniors?”
With stay-home orders and the shutdown of much of the valley’s economy, Nolan noted that a number of seniors weren’t getting their twice-weekly lunches in Minturn and Eagle. A number of those older residents also weren’t getting information from the print version of the Vail Daily since they weren’t going out.
Replies to a post-outbreak question in the biennial town survey indicated a number of older residents were on edge and looking for more information.
A suggestion to call residents wouldn’t work, since people are urged to only answer calls from numbers they know. Fraudulent calls are rampant, especially when it comes to older residents.
The answer came from the age of Benjamin Franklin: the U.S. mail.
With the Healthy Aging office providing the information, the town of Vail designed postcards containing a lot of facts, along with phone numbers and websites. The town paid to design, print and mail the cards to every registered voter in town who is 60 or older.
In addition to the mail, the town has also offered to use firefighters to pass out the cards during senior shopping hours at the town’s grocery stores.
To help maintain contact, the Healthy Aging office is working to pair volunteers with older residents for help ranging from buying food to a simple “how are you?” phone call.
That outreach is spreading beyond Vail. Rietmann said Vail has given permission for other towns and the county to use the postcards as a template.
“We want to make sure people know we’re here to help,” Rietmann said.
Some of that help includes lunches. The Healthy Aging office is still providing lunches in Minturn and Eagle, but meals are now being delivered or picked up. Eagle County Schools has also expanded its weekday sack-lunch pickup program to include older residents.
In addition to food, the Healthy Aging office is also working to provide other resources to help people stay comfortable at home and is working to match volunteers with residents.
It isn’t just younger people who have reached out to volunteer to help.
“We’re seeing an amazing outreach of seniors to seniors,” Nolan said. “It’s really an amazing community.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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