The past few years have been tough for all of us, with social isolation, soaring prices of every-day items, fears related to COVID-19, and, especially for residents of Minneapolis, unrest and turmoil. For many area older adults – many of whom were experiencing social isolation even before COVID-19 made its way to Minnesota – it’s been a time that has tested their independence and health, and uprooted their routines and relationships
Nokomis Healthy Seniors, a local nonprofit whose mission is to help older adults remain independent in their own homes has served older adults in 15 neighborhoods of south Minneapolis since 1994. Since it provides direct service and programs that are relationship-based, the pandemic has brought many operational challenges. Pre-pandemic, those services included education, art groups, book club, support groups, foot care, exercise, outings to plays and museums, special events, Lunch and a Movie, and referrals to home care and to other resources.
The 28-year-old organization’s staff and volunteers rose to the challenge, pivoting to new and alternative ways to connect with participants during the lock-down and health crisis. The staff got creative with offering many ideas and resources, that were shared via emails and print newsletters, such as virtual exercise classes and affinity gatherings, drive-thru events – including drive-thru events holiday party, Thanksgiving pie give-away and Valentine’s Day gift bags – and most recently, hybrid models, with programs being offered both in-person and online to accommodate everyone’s needs and comfort levels.
Volunteers stepped up, too, finding new ways to connect to older adults. While typical in-person visits with older adults and rides to doctor appointments weren’t an option for many months, they were able to pick up food and meals, library materials, and other essential items – socially distanced, of course. Staff and volunteers also called older adults for regular, friendly check-ins. Megan Elliasen, executive director of NHS, said, “We’re grateful for our wonderful volunteers who served older adults in new and different ways.”
Another example of NHS being flexible and creative is that NHS had planned an in-person group, “Walk with Ease” program by the Arthritis Foundation. Instead, staff turned it into an individual endeavor that they called “Walk the Grand Canyon,” in which each participant would walk 18 miles over a period of 2-3 months (the distance of what it would be to walk the Grand Canyon) in their own homes.
Thanks to COVID-relief funds, all staff have remained employed throughout the crisis. “We’re extremely grateful for the funds we’ve received, as it meant that all staff have remained employed, and we were able to continue to provide some much-needed services, despite the challenges around the pandemic,” said Elliasen.
The New Normal
In the past year, things have slowly gone back to more of a pre-COVID status as NHS has planned additional in-person events, including: monthly luncheons and regular educational presentations, exercise classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and a yoga class on Wednesdays. One of the most popular programs, “Nurse Is In,” in which a nurse does blood pressure checks and chats with seniors about their health issues, is back on the schedule. Thursdays mornings are once again one of the most popular days of the week for NHS participants, with many staying most of the morning – participating in the exercise class, having their blood pressure checked and socializing with others. Many activities are still being offered in a hybrid model, to ensure that participants can participate in whatever way they’re comfortable.
If you’re an older adult looking for activities and resources, or a caregiver of an older adult, please get in touch. We’d love to meet you! Contact NHS at 612-729-5499, or visit the website at https://www.nokomishealthyseniors.org.
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