From Our CEO
Each new year brings challenges when your organization is dedicated to serving older adults and people with disabilities. The population we serve is growing rapidly. There are not enough qualified workers to fill the growing demand for in-home care. Family caregivers find themselves providing increasingly complex care while also trying to raise families and manage careers.
Add a global pandemic to the mix and the probability of things going from bad to worse increases drastically.
Not here. Not in southwestern Ohio. While it has certainly been a challenging time for all of us – especially for those we serve – I could not be prouder of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the work we have done on behalf of our community's most vulnerable residents. This pride extends to Ohio’s network of Area Agencies on Aging (Council on Aging is an Area Agency on Aging). This network, and the community-based providers that work with us, has been a lifeline for area older adults who’ve struggled to maintain their independence during the pandemic.
CEO, Council on Aging
In our 2020 Impact Report, you'll learn how Council on Aging (COA) quickly adapted to meet our community's needs - serving not only our own clients, but also older adults, who until the pandemic, never before needed assistance. The stories and data in this report illustrate the breadth of this response. For example, by the end of September 2020, COA had provided more than 252,000 meals to older adults who’d been impacted by the pandemic.
Equally impactful – and humbling – is the feedback we’ve received from older adults and their caregivers. Ron, a veteran from Clinton County, told us, “After this is all over, when I can get to the store, I want to send you a thank you! I feel bad taking food like this. I don’t ask for anything that I can’t get myself unless I really need it, or if I need it for my wife. I know there are others who need it more than I do.”
COA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic began in January 2020 and it continues today as we work to help vaccinate a population that is dying from this virus at rates disproportionately higher than any other group. In the U.S., eight in 10 COVID-19 related deaths are among people age 65 and older.
It’s hard to see the positive in a situation where older adults are cut off from loved-ones for months at a time, afraid even to leave their homes to shop for groceries. But out of every emergency situation comes opportunity for innovation and collaboration. We seized on opportunities to work with new partners – health departments, emergency management agencies, health care leaders and even local restaurants – to help older adults through the pandemic.
We also adapted existing services and launched new programs. In its first year, the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program provided locally grown fruits and vegetables to more than 1,100 older adults in our service area – a welcome bright spot in a season of monotony.
In fact, the pandemic has changed how we do business - for the better and for the future. In a space where technology is often seen as a barrier to care, we've received grants and are piloting programs that will help us connect virtually to our clients and caregivers.
But there were other factors driving change last year. Driven by the response to the killing of George Floyd, we took a thoughtful look at our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We have a lot of work to do, but we are united in the belief that our workforce should reflect the diversity of those we serve. And that as such, we can create a culture and provide services that acknowledge and celebrate the things that make each of us unique.
As a country, there's a lot to be hopeful for. My hope is that next year, our 2021 Impact Report will share news of how we beat the pandemic and welcomed a return to normalcy. For now though, I choose to celebrate the positive moments of the past year, especially as we enter a new era for COA and celebrate 50 years of service to our community. Please join us in this celebration by sharing the impact COA has had on your life. Leave your thoughts on our Facebook page using the hashtag #COA50years.