Submitted by Brian Windrope, executive director, Senior Services for South Sound

For a community as robust and delightful as ours, it is especially dreadful to consider the circumstances our seniors are facing during this COVID-19 pandemic. We know that seniors are far more vulnerable to the effects of this virus than are other populations, but it is not widely understood that the vast majority of seniors who may never fall ill from this pandemic, are nevertheless facing unprecedented isolation. Our mission as an organization is to improve the quality of life for people as they age, and this places us squarely on the front lines of helping seniors through these times.

Seniors are struggling with everything the rest of us are facing: loneliness, isolation, boredom, inconvenience, and varying degrees of fear. But beyond these concerns, they are distressed in ways unique to their age. Over the last week we have spoken with nearly 2,000 seniors, and many report they are also facing food insecurity and health distress. Seniors are sheltering in place. They fear going outside. You do not see them in the same numbers around Capitol Lake, or at the grocery store.

We know that staying inside reduces physical activity and this is especially concerning for seniors. And we know that social distancing deprives them of the very thing research shows is critical to their mental and physical health: dynamic, caring human interaction. This double strike is made worse by otherwise independent and capable seniors feeling stuck between getting their normal healthy food at the grocery store and risking infection, or staying home and running out of supplies. We hear from seniors who are skipping normal medical appointments, not filling prescriptions and otherwise not attending to their health needs for these same reasons.

Senior Services for South Sound provides the Meals on Wheels service for Thurston and Mason Counties and we are projecting our number of meals served will double in the next few weeks. This imminent doubling means we have to mobilize more volunteers to deliver meals, and stretch our staff and funding thinner. We also provide transportation services for seniors who lack ways to get to essential appointments.  We are pinched by our supply of donated food items from local bakeries and grocers being greatly diminished or absent altogether because they are selling out due to people hoarding. All this while many of our other wonderful programs for seniors are cancelled because of the pandemic, resulting in a considerable loss of connection for seniors and revenue to continue our work.

Seniors need our help more than ever as they face unique and frightening challenges. Being spread thin is our normal operating mode, but this pandemic compels us to greater action while being hamstrung by reduced resources. Now is the time to think of the seniors you cherish, the elders in your family or community who have led us through challenges in the past, and who now need our help.  Please join us today as a volunteer and if able, as a donor, so that isolated and deeply vulnerable seniors feel the support of many, many hands. Visit southsoundseniors.org to learn more or to make a gift.

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