CIRCLEVILLE — As Ohio’s economy gets reopened in segments, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is still being confirmed throughout the state. For some of the most vulnerable, such as senior citizens, the state is providing regular check-ins through the Staying Connected Program.
On May 12, Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElroy announced a new free service which is set to provide daily check-ins by telephone for Ohioans aged 60 and over. The service was established in order to make sure that older citizens of the state stay connected while staying home.
The phone program will call older adults who sign up for the service during a pre-scheduled amount of time. When older Ohioans answer the phone, they will be asked a series of questions and responses will be done via touch tone to confirm their answers.
If there are no responses after three attempts, a call is then made to an alternate contact, if one is provided, or a non-emergency number. According to the statehouse in Columbus, the service can be turned off at any time.
According to Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Robert Cornwell, during these times of uncertainty, he encourages older Ohioans to take advantage of the service.
“This program will help reduce isolation and support the health and well-being of older adults in our state,” Cornwell was quoted in a statehouse report.
Residents of Ohio who are eligible can sign up at aging.ohio.gov or by calling 1-800-266-4346.
According to the statehouse, Staying Connected is not an emergency response service. Those who choose to participate should keep in mind to always use 911 or their emergency response system if they are injured or in need of emergency assistance.
Director Cindy Farson stated the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging (COAAA) serves as another option for older Ohioan’s to learn about resources for them in the area.
The COAAA creates and organizes plans, funds and delivers services which are intended to help older adults as well as individuals with disabilities in order to make sure they are safe and independent in their homes.
According to Jennifer Westfall, director of aging and disabilities at Buckeye Hills, if a senior indicates that they may need additional services or information, a referral will be made to Buckeye hills.
COAAA manages services for 10,500 people also funding services for another 25,000 older adults within eight counties. Counties COAAA services include Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Licking, Madison, Pickaway and Union.
According to Director Farson, locals living in its jurisdiction will be asked if they desire to learn more about aging services on a local level.
“If you press (that option), depending on where you are... that call will come to our agency and we’ll answer questions or connect people to services or whatever they need to do,” Farson told The Circleville Herald.
According to the Ohio Department of Aging, check-in calls will be made from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Locals can sign up for a time that is best suited for them. They can also place a hold on these types of calls at any time.
Those who can participate must be current Ohio residents aged 60 years or older. Participants must also have a valid phone number, mobile or landline, and provide an alternate contact which the department prefers, but does not require.
Locals will need to provide basic identifying information such as name and street address.
For the older Ohioans, this reality has placed pressure on them to stay home as the elderly has been identified as one of the most vulnerable populations. Farson stated that during these times, people, of all ages, have become nervous staying indoors. Farson, as well as the state, both realize what this times means for older Ohioans.
”This is not a friendly visiting call... it’s a call to make sure you are responding everyday,” Farson said. “If you don’t answer the call, (the state) has a whole procedure for when that happens.”
Farson added that the state will call an alternate contact if one is provided. She also commented that local senior centers and other facilities have been routinely checking on clients during COVID-19 shutdowns.