Heart of Ida nonprofit helps Long Beach seniors through coronavirus pandemic. This is how – Press Telegram | #television | #elderly | #movies
Hygiene kits, fresh food boxes and grocery cards are among the items hundreds of older Long Beach adults with mobility issues or financial stress have received from a local nonprofit since the coronavirus pandemic began.
And that’s just a few of the ways the Heart of Ida, a 13-year-old Long Beach nonprofit, has altered its operations to help elders since the city’s initial stay-at-home order went into effect last year.
The nonprofit has helped older adults maintain their independence since its 2008 founding, providing free resources, such as fall-prevention and social-engagement programs, for its members — all to make their day-to-day lives a bit easier. But when the pandemic hit last year, it scuttled many of the organization’s regular services because the staff couldn’t see their clients in-person. That meant some seniors could go a day without groceries, working out or receiving social time. That a was problem: Many seniors faced increasing isolation, with health officials recommending they go out as rarely as possible because they are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
So the Heart of Ida had to revamp operations, said Dina Berg, the nonprofit’s founder and executive director. And they had to do it quickly.
“There were all of these classes and services that were put on hold because now we were in a pandemic,” Berg said, “and we just couldn’t operate like we used to.
“It was hard to connect with seniors at first because they don’t all have internet or access to email,” she added. “But as daunting as it seemed at first, we were able to rework our processes and then eventually just handled any new challenge as it came.”
The nonprofit, for example, started a telephone system to provide members with weekly messages that offered updated news on the stay-at-home order, instructions for receiving food boxes and information on other resources, such as exercise and social programs. More than 700 elders have signed up for the phone-message program.
Senior Police Partners — a volunteer auxiliary of the Long Beach Police Department composed of elders who offer support to their peers — also call members who request a more personal update.
The Heart of Ida, Berg said, also tweaked programs it had run before the pandemic.
“We knew that people were stuck inside, sometimes all day, without any social interaction because they are self-isolating, and that is really hard,” Berg said. “So we got creative. Instead of teaching tai chi in specific locations in Long Beach, volunteers met these people at their home for porch workouts where they can get moving, but also stay socially distanced.”
The nonprofit, meanwhile, has distributed more than 750 hygiene kits, 150 fresh food boxes and 146 grocery cards to elders since the pandemic began — and taken seniors’ dogs on a total of 450 walks.
And the nonprofit has distributed 110 computers and about 50 internet hotspots to people who needed them.
That, of course, also meant having to figure out a way to help new computer users remotely.
“Some of these people have never used a computer before,” Berg said, “and we couldn’t send someone to go to their house and show them how to use it.”
But that problem was worked out, too, Berg said. Volunteer nursing students from Cal State Long Beach started scheduling phone calls to answer any computer-related questions.
Television has also provided a means to connect with seniors. Long Beach’s public television station, thanks to the Heart of Ida, has added 50 shows and infomercials — in English and Spanish — featuring resource guides and workouts. The station is available online at PADNET.TV, on Channel 32 for those with Spectrum cable and on Channel 41 for those with Frontier Communications.
But like most nonprofits, the Heart of Ida relies on donations to keep operations afloat. For information or to donate: 562-570-3548 or heartofida.org.