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East Side senior center reaching out to feed, entertain seniors in isolation

Posted at 11:34 AM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 17:16:53-04

CINCINNATI — Right now, nothing works like it used to.

When Shelley Goering started to hear about the threat the coronavirus posed to older folks and those with underlying conditions, she knew she was going to have to make some changes.

Goering is the executive director of the Hyde Park Center for Older Adults. The name is a bit of a misnomer.

"We don't just service Hyde Park," Goering told WCPO. "We service the surrounding area, Cincinnati's East Side, seven neighborhoods.

Its reach extends into the East End, Madisonville, O'Bryonville, and parts of Norwood.

And there are a lot of people who might not know about the services they offer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the Center had to pivot quickly, to continue serving seniors in a pandemic that demanded limited interaction.

Where there would normally be upwards of 100 people getting fed inside the center each week, now a couple of vans are delivering meals to 40 or 50 people each week.

"We know the need out there is much more," Goering said.

Normally, Sean Stewart's day involves picking up the Center's clients to take them to appointments, to the store, or to the Center.

Making deliveries to seniors
Sean Stewart delivers a week's worth of dinners to a senior in Hyde Park

Now, every Monday morning, Stewart drives from the Center on Erie Avenue to pick up frozen meals, prepackaged together to feed for five dinners. He then sets out on more than one dozen stops. But it's about more than just the food.

"Even if that's just the little bit of human interaction that they get for the day," he said, "it's nice to know that I get to put a smile on someone's face – even if it's just for a little bit during the day."

He's taking precautions around the seniors – staying six feet away and frequently washing hands. He keeps a bottle of sanitizer in the cupholder of the van. That means WCPO and this reporter kept our distance, too.

Hyde Park Center for Older Adults meal service
The Hyde Park Center for Older Adults started meal deliveries to help during the coronavirus pandemic.

Peggy Harris is one of those clients. She told WCPO she went to get lunch at the Center three times a week.

"I'd go and it was all seniors, so we'd sit and we'd talk," she said. "It was really nice."

Now she's thankful the Center shifted its focus out of the building and to her home. She gets meal delivery on Monday and said it often comes with canned goods and other items, too. And she said the Center's in contact with her often about the changing situation.

"They're staying in touch, [asking] 'how are you feeling?' and [telling us] 'we're going to feeding you,'" she said. "You can't beat that."

The Center has started a program it calls "Social Bridging" to help isolated seniors feel connected during a time of social distancing.

Katie Weber, a nursing student, is running the program, which is looking for volunteers to connect with the seniors by becoming, in essence, pen pals.

"For mental health, you want to stay connected and engaged with people," said Weber. "Writing letters, sharing recipes, what have you, is just a way to reach out, make new friends, hear new stories, stay connected to the world, stay engaged, and keep positive vibes going."

A new program and a change to an existing one, all to look out for those most at-risk during this pandemic.

"Things change daily, if not even by the hours and the minutes," Goering said. "So in order to keep up with it, you have to keep re-engaging with the people that need the help and re-assessing and reaching out."

If you or someone you know could benefit from the services described above, give the Hyde Park Center for Older Adults a call at (513) 321-6816.