Congratulations to the Danbury Department of Elderly Services!
The City of Danbury’s Department of Elderly Services has again been named a Senior Focal Point by the Western CT Area Agency on Aging (WCAAA). The award was presented during the WCAAA annual meeting that took place on Friday, December 1, 2017 at La Bella Vista in Waterbury. Chris Fishbein, WCAAA Executive Director, along with the WCAAA Board of Directors, presented the award to Susan Tomanio, LCSW, Director of Elderly Services.
The Department of Elderly Services seeks to increase the quality of life of Danbury area citizens who are age 60 or older by developing many comprehensive programs and providing resource and referral services specifically designed to enrich the general well-being of Danbury’s more mature population. Programs include the Municipal Agent’s Office for the Elderly, the Elmwood Hall Senior Center, the Van Transportation Program, the Rent Rebate Program, the Senior Nutrition Congregate Meal Program, and various Intergenerational Programs. Communication regarding these programs is enhanced through our website www.danburyseniors.org – the official website for Danbury seniors.
The website, www.danburyseniors.org, provides information and links to services and resources for seniors, their families and the greater community. It also provides information on events at the Elmwood Hall Senior Center and in the greater community, news stories, and a photo gallery. One can stay up-to-date on news items by subscribing to e-news, as well as email any staff member to get questions answered and have resources provided. The Municipal Agent’s office provides information and referral, assisting older citizens with up-to-date information on Medicare, Medicaid, Elder Law, Tax Credits, Senior Housing, Elder Abuse, Home Care, and a host of other important issues affecting older citizens. The Elmwood Hall Senior Center provides a variety of programs in the areas of health and wellness, benefits and support, education, leisure time activities, fun and celebrations, and volunteer opportunities. The majority of these programs are done in partnership with other community providers and sponsors. Elmwood Hall is the gateway to information as well as the “place to gather” for many seniors. A newsletter titled “The Elmwood Extra” is a bi-monthly publication that keeps all members up to date on what’s going on. The Van Transportation Program provides rides to and from Elmwood Hall for activities and special outings in the community. The Rent Rebate Program, a State of Connecticut Program of the Office of Policy and Management, administered through this department, provides a one-time yearly rebate on rental payments for those who qualify. The Senior Nutrition Congregate Meal Program is provided in partnership with the Western CT Area Agency on Aging, serves a nutritionally balanced, hot meal in a social setting. Intergenerational Programs take place quarterly with active participation from area schools.
A “Friends of Danbury Seniors” group, “The Prime Timers, Inc.” is a 501C3 not-for-profit whose sole mission is to support the programs of the department and the Elmwood Hall Senior center. Donations are accepted at any time.
Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Accomplishments
Our accomplishment for 2020 focus on redesigning the Department of Elderly Services’ programs to safely meet the needs of Danbury Seniors during the COVID19 pandemic.
Messaging. We have changed our voicemail message to say our building is closed, but we are still here answering the phones and providing information and programs to meet the needs of Danbury seniors.
Congregate meal site turned into a meals on wheels delivery program. In partnership with CW Resources, our congregate meal provider for our on-site senior lunch program, we have converted this program into a Meals on Wheels delivery program. Staff from the senior center act as drivers. Four meals are delivered per week. During the height of the COVID19 crisis we were also able to provide a two week supply of shelf stable meals to each of our senior participates.
Resource and Referral / Case Management Over the Phone. This continues in earnest. We continue to connect seniors to resources in the community. Many referrals are for seniors who are food insecure, but we are also assisting with referrals and guidance for SNAP benefits, homecare, housing, tax assistance, elder abuse, home repair, elder law, transportation, unemployment, and medical equipment. We have been challenged to look for creative solutions to assist seniors during this difficult time.
CHOICES Over the Phone. (Connecticut’s program for Health insurance assistance, Outreach, Information and referral, Counseling, Eligibility Screening, i.e. Medicare A, B, D, Advantage, Medigap, Medicare Savings) This is challenging and difficult, but we are able to continue to assist seniors with CHOICES and benefit and support services over the phone. Changes have occurred with various benefits and we continue to stay informed on these changes to make sure seniors get accurate information.
Rent Rebate Over the Phone. We process over 800 applications for Rent Rebate each year. We began outreach to our senior housing buildings to process applications before the shut down due to COVID19. A streamlined redesign of program procedures by Elderly Services’ staff allowed us to expedite the application process despite the COVID19 disruption, as our building closed and outreach and in person application were no longer possible. Work continues earnestly over the phone, via email, and text messaging. The State of CT Office of Policy and Management has recognized our Rent Rebate program as a model for other towns and city in the State.
“Sunshine Smile” Social Wellness Call Program. This program has been greatly expanded. Weekly calls are made to seniors to not only “check in” on seniors’ well-being, but to offset the isolation due to the safety needs of “Stay Home, Stay Safe.” Pertinent questions our asked to discover if any participant may have needs around issues of food, medication, housing, and self-care during the pandemic.
Virtual Activities / Wellness Classes. Working in partnership with a cinematographer who donated services, virtual, on demand activities are posted our website, www.danburyseniors.org under the “Virtual Classes and Activities” heading. They include Line Dancing, Strength Training, Gentle Flow Yoga, and Zumba Gold, Timeless Trivia, Chair Yoga, and Dance Yoga.
Masks. Working in partnership with some of our members of the our Senior Center, we have been able to provide hand sewn masks to many seniors. These masks were mailed or delivered by senior center staff. The packaging for the mask included a note of support printed on our department letterhead identifying us as a place of continued support for seniors during COVID19.
Redesigned “Elmwood Extra” Newsletter. Just as our programs have changed, and will continue to change due to COVID19, we have redesigned our newsletter as appropriate. Elderly Services’ staff provided graphic design skills, cartooning skills, while others contributed resources, puzzles, trivia questions, recipes and more. New, more expedited distribution of the printed version was also introduced.
CT Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Market Voucher Program. Partnership with State of CT Department of Agriculture will continue as Farmers’ Market Vouchers were provided for Danbury seniors. A redesign of the program allowed for touchless distribution of these vouchers.
Eat Smart Live Strong Nutrition Program / Farm on the Move. This program has been modified to offer nutrition education on-line in partnership with UCONN Department of Agriculture SNAP Nutrition Education. Fresh vegetables were provided in the form of two choices: 1) “A Grab and Go Farmers’ Market Box” of vegetables picked up at the Senior Center for those who did not feel safe shopping at the Farmers’ Market (or delivered for those who lack transportation) or 2) “Farmers’ Market Coins” given out directly at the Farmer’s Markets to seniors so they can shop on their own. Both are valued at $10. This program is a delivered in partnership with CityCenter Danbury, the Danbury Farmers’ Market, and the UCONN Department of Agriculture. This program is supported in part by a grant from the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation.
Scaling Up Operations. COVID19 is a fluid and ever changing situation. Older adults age 65 plus continue to be most at risk. We are working with the State of Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services, the State of CT Department of Public Health, the CT Association of Senior Center Personnel, as well as our City of Danbury Mayor’s Office, and Department of Health and Human Services to reopen in a way that prioritizes the safety of Danbury’s older adults and City of Danbury employees.