Community Rallies to Support Older Adults Navigating the COVID-19 Outbreak

The COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on vulnerable populations raises many concerns about the welfare of older adults in our community. 

While no one is immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, our older population is especially susceptible to its effects. Even those with ample resources to safely shelter in place are feeling the negative effects of this crisis.

Alvin Loewenberg is one of them. Loewenberg retired in 2017 after 26 years as the CEO of Morningside Ministries, a nonprofit organization providing what many consider to be the gold standard for residential services for older adults. With years of experience in the social services sector, and with financial means afforded after a long, successful career as an executive, Loewenberg is still experiencing how difficult this time is for those aging in place. Like many other older adults who live independently, he is still very  actively involved in the community, but is dealing with the effects of isolation during these challenging  times. While he has family nearby, he’s seeing them only from a distance as he navigates his way through the new reality of daily life.

“My usual trips to the grocery store have become an exercise in digital skills by learning how to order necessities online and having them delivered,” he said. “It’s been a lonely and isolating experience and it’s an entirely new world to navigate. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who didn’t have some of the supports I already had in place.” Loewenberg shares his expertise on caring for an aging population as one of the leaders of Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA), a key initiative of the San Antonio Area Foundation. This initiative works to create a community where older adults are respected, thrive and enjoy connected lives. A steering committee leads the collaborative, comprised of leaders from organizations providing services to older adults and others with life experience in aging and caring for people in their later years. Together they identify challenges and help direct resources to support successful aging in our community.

While it’s a difficult time for all, it’s also a time when the collaboration, ingenuity and innovative solutions of San Antonians are on display. Several local nonprofit organizations that are part of the Area Foundation’s SALSA initiative are modifying their services to ensure older adults are safely receiving support. For example, the Madonna Center’s senior and promotora (community health worker) programs are shifting to home-based supports instead of providing services out of their community center. Merced Housing’s residential services coordinators, who work with older adults in affordable housing communities owned or operated by the nonprofit, are creating safe human connection through virtual means or appropriate social distancing.

The PRESA Transportation Coalition and VIAtrans have collaborated to provide rides to curbside grocery pickup for older adults and individuals with disabilities. Once residents have scheduled their curbside pickup time, they can call the team at PRESA Transportation Coalition at 210-532-5554 to schedule a ride. If the resident is already a current VIAtrans customer, they can continue calling 210-362-5050 for ride service, after scheduling their curbside grocery pickup.

Jane Paccione, Managing Director of Collective Impact, SALSA

These organizations – and many other groups and individuals in our community – show that San Antonio is truly a caring, inclusive community. They are living examples of the responsibility our entire community shares for the older generation and the importance of caring for those who came before us, taught us, and passed their knowledge and wisdom to new generations. As San Antonio works through the challenging times ahead, let us unite in our commitment to honor, care for and support the vibrant generation of older adults in our community.

Coverage of this release has been published by MySA and San Antonio Express-News.