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Encouraging seniors during COVID–19

Seniors at a computer seminar at the Boston Kroc in 2019.

Four years ago, Olive Fagan took on the job of senior program coordinator at the Salvation Army’s Boston Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center’s senior program.

“The program was one day a week, consisting of a game of bingo and a meal,” says Fagan. “Now, they come in three times a week, but bingo is something we only do once a year.”

For the Kroc Center’s 25 Super Sensational Seniors, Fagan hosts programs and educational seminars on nutrition, house care, and other themes of importance to their daily lives. She partners with groups such as the Alzheimer’s’ Association, the Boston Police Department, hospitals, and the City of Boston’s Elderly Commission. Seniors can enjoy spa days, art programs, guest speakers from the community, and classes on how to use computers.

Fagan’s Super Sensational Seniors program has grown to 180 members. They are eager to interact with peers and to learn new things.

 

A meal at their door

But earlier this year, the program and its activities all came to a stop because of the pandemic. “Many of our seniors felt isolated and alone, even before COVID–19 forced everyone to be indoors. It’s a big reason why our program was so successful and important to them,” says Fagan. “They tell me they miss the interaction it provided.”

In past years, Fagan might have started the fall season by planning a seminar on eating healthy, or arranging an apple–picking trip. Now, she’s focused on the ministry she began when COVID–19 kept her from seeing her seniors. Fagan makes individual care packages to remind them that The Salvation Army, and Olive herself, still remembers them.

The packages contain enough food for two weeks, catered to accommodate their recipient’s health needs. Fagan packs accordingly; she knows the seniors’ diets and medical conditions. She keeps away anything that is high in salt to protect those who suffer from hypertension. She also skips sugars for patients who have diabetes.

“I include only a few canned foods. I’d rather use whole wheats, fresh fruits, and vegetables. I also try to avoid too much beef or pork and instead use chicken or fish,” says Fagan.

 

Olive Fagan speaks at a seniors event last fall.

Messages of encouragement

Fagan says she pays close attention to the emotions frequently expressed by seniors in their response to world events.  She listens to them and takes their comments and concerns into careful consideration.

“Some of them are too scared to even open the door for someone. So, I’m happy to leave the package on their doorstep,” says Fagan. “If someone tells me that they feel apprehensive and afraid to even step out of their house, I cannot disregard those feelings. But what I can do is encourage them in these difficult times.”

Fagan does this by including personal greetings and notes inside the care packages she prepares. Many of the seniors say that they save the notes and keep them on their fridge for daily encouragement.

Fagan says that one of those seniors, Charlotte, discovered during the pandemic that she had cancer. Along with food and prayer booklets, Fagan prepared a special note for the package that arrived at Charlotte’s doorstep.

 Hello Charlotte,

Hope you are well. Stay strong, be well, be safe.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

The Lord is my shepherd. (Psalm 23)

Blessings from The Salvation Army

 

Living in the moment

“I’m so grateful to be able to do this. Every day here is a blessing from God for each of us,” Fagan says. “I’m very proud of each activity we did for seniors in the past four years prior to COVID because, for now, doing those activities is impossible.”

Fagan says that the pandemic has taught her lessons that will apply even when the seniors are finally allowed to return to the Kroc Center. “COVID made me realize how important it is to live in the moment. Take advantage of today and get done what needs to get done now; there might not be a chance to do it tomorrow.”

by Hugo Bravo

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