SCOA “Senior Center without Walls” Connects Socially Isolated Seniors using Virtual Events in Georgia

Photo: Sowega Council on Aging

The Challenge

In 2020, the Sowega Council on Aging in Southwest Georgia was facing declining participation at their senior centers and attendance continued to decrease with the onset of the pandemic.

At this point, the agency decided to close all traditional senior center facilities and switched to the senior center without walls model due to declining overall participation over the past 10 years (pre-COVID) and rising expenses.  The cost of doing business in traditional senior centers was going up while participation was declining. The Sowega Council on Aging (SCOA) had to find a way to serve more people in an economical manner, and in a format that was resilient to the pandemic, declining workforce, and inflation.

The Solution

SCOA immediately started looking for a solution that could effectively complement their senior centers while continuing to offer some of the services they used to provide.

Their novel approach named “Senior Centers Without Walls” included two components: meals in a community setting, and virtual and in-person activities.

Restaurants were chosen to provide the meals because they had the capacity to serve clients in a community setting, and could meet the required dietary guidelines; meanwhile, the virtual programs were developed to serve seniors who were socially isolated. The goal was to keep them engaged and connected at home through programs and services delivered virtually via internet-connected tablets.

After a careful evaluation period, SCOA selected Claris Companion, an easy-to-use tablet and software solution specifically designed for older seniors.

Key features of Claris Companion include:

  • Care Management Console, a web-based dashboard that allows care staff and select family members to remotely manage the tablets and monitor the progress of the tablet users.
  • Integrated messaging, video calling, photo sharing, internet browsing, games, alerts, and more.
  • One-click customization for staff to remotely personalize each tablet.
  • Claris InsightsTM reporting and data visualization of the Claris Companion platform that helps staff report how clients are interacting with their tablets at home.

The Focus on Virtual Events

To keep seniors as engaged as possible while isolating at home, SCOA deployed an array of virtual events ranging from Tai Chi and Virtual Bingo to Virtual Coffee Hour and Aging Mastery Programs.

These programs provided the much needed engagement that seniors were receiving previously at their senior centers.

Results

The Senior Centers Without Walls strategy and model was implemented in April 2020 and within a few months, their participation rose from 500 receiving meals to 1500 and the virtual programming on the tablets increased from 25 to 100.

The following graph from SCOA’s Claris Insights analytics demonstrates virtual events like the Morning Stretch, Chair Yoga and Aging Mastery Program from Senior Planet were some of the most popular events for SCOA’s seniors.

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