Press Releases

DFTA Revamps Its Programs to a System of Remote and Virtual Services to Reach Older New Yorkers in Their Homes During Pandemic

In the last month, more than 450,000 remote wellness check-ins done, and nearly 1,000 volunteers calling and video chatting with older New Yorkers to limit social isolation. Senior centers and organizations offer online virtual programs.

NEW YORK (April 30, 2020) – To keep older New Yorkers safe, healthy and engaged during citywide shutdown, the New York City Department for the Aging’s (DFTA) network of providers have transitioned many of the services provided at centers, to services that are accessible at home. In the last month, remote and virtual services have included more than 450,000 wellness check-is, senior centers offering virtual workshops and virtual fitness programs, and the service of nearly 1,000 volunteers who are socially connecting with older adults through phone calls and video chats, the agency announced.

“Thanks to our network of providers and partners, we’ve accomplished, in short order, to deliver support and assistance to older New Yorkers during this pandemic, but our efforts will not stop here. New Yorkers, including our older adult population, are incredibly resilient. We will continue to work with our new and existing partners until we have overcome this pandemic and our seniors can return to their daily, active lives,” said DFTA Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez.

Older New Yorkers are one of the groups most vulnerable to COVID-19. On March 16th, DFTA followed City guidance and temporarily closed nearly 300 congregate centers, satellites, and social clubs across the city to help limit the spread of the virus. Prior to the pandemic, these centers had served as hubs of social activity, daily congregate meals (which are now being delivered through the City's Emergency Food Home Delivery program), essential support, and community for more than 25,000 older New Yorkers.

DFTA and its partners worked to quickly transition many of the services that older New Yorkers came to rely on at centers, to services that could be accessible at home. Since the City shutdown, staff from congregate centers have regularly been conducting wellness check-ins by phone that provide older adults with social engagement, case management care, caregiver and home care monitoring. In the last month, more than 450,000 wellness calls have been done.

Social Isolation is another issue confronting older New Yorkers while they shelter in place. To combat this, DFTA transitioned its Friendly Visiting program, which matches homebound older adults with volunteers who do weekly visits, to a remote program. Prior to COVID-19, more than 850 volunteers were visiting older adults on a regular basis to talk about shared interests and experiences, forming friendships in the process. With recommendations that older New Yorkers stay at home and maintain social distancing, Friendly Visiting volunteers have continued the program by staying connected with older New Yorkers through phone calls and video chats that are done two to three times a week. In the last month, new volunteers have signed up for the program, bringing the volunteer total to nearly 1,000 volunteers and helping serve more older adults than before.

To keep older New Yorkers fit, healthy and active, centers from DFTA’s network are offering virtual classes, including fitness programs, nutrition workshops and art classes. Prior to COVID-19, center members received much of their physical and cultural activities by visiting centers. But like other services, these programs have transitioned to be accessible at home. Greenwich House in the West Village is offering a virtual classes that include a comedy workshop, creative writing, t’ai chi and chair yoga. New York City SAGE Centers are also offering virtual programs that include fitness, art and technology classes.

As the City shutdown continues, DFTA, its network of providers, and the City will continue providing services to older New Yorkers. Anyone wanting more information about services, or would like to volunteer or be part of the Friendly Visiting program, can call Aging Connect, DFTA’s contact center, at 212-AGING-NYC (212-244-6469).

About DFTA
The New York City Department for the Aging works to eliminate ageism and ensure the dignity and quality of life of New York City's diverse 1.7 million older adults. DFTA also works to support caregivers through service, advocacy, and education. DFTA is the largest area agency on aging in the United States.