When you think of the Times Square area of New York City, most people think of lights, shops, shows and street vendors. But people live there too, and many of those residents are seniors. Serving many of these seniors is the Encore Community Services.
Encore provides three primary services, housing, community services, and meals but that is an oversimplification of their community impact. Encore also provides case workers, home health services, as well as safety and security for residents. And since the arrival of the global Covid-19 pandemic, that safety has been an extra challenge – one Encore met smartly and compassionately.
Sitting down in a common space for meals is something that can’t happen right now. Encore, who make their own meals in their industrial kitchen, are now delivering food to seniors where they live. Before this crisis they did this too, but now it is the primary way their clients are getting food. Executive director of Encore, Jeremy Kaplan explained, “Under pre-Covid circumstances we were serving 1100 meals a day, which included delivering hot meals daily, but now that need has grown to more like 1500 meals a day.” And Encore is meeting that goal by adjusting its approach by delivering non-perishables and frozen foods 2-3 times a week.
HOUSING & SENIOR CENTER
Encore operates senior housing and senior centers as well. Encore protected their residences several weeks before the rest of New York City. This meant limiting onsite access, monitoring all comings and goings, and making sure essential staff had protective equipment. But to make up for the reduced human contact so important to emotional health, Encore implemented wellness calls. Case workers, staff and volunteers call seniors and “check up on how they’re doing,” said Kaplan, “do they need help, are they continuing to get their prescriptions – and we help get them what they need”.
Maintaining socialization is an important part of what Encore does, so they have established several virtual group activities, like Zoomba classes, Bible study, a writers-group, and other interactive opportunities.