NEW LEXINGTON — As Ohio’s economy reopens in segments, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is still being confirmed throughout the state. For some of the most vulnerable, such as senior citizens, the state is providing regular check-ins through the Staying Connected program.
On May 12, the Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElroy announced a new free service which is set to provide daily check-ins by telephone for Ohioans aged 60 and over. The service was established in order to make sure that older citizens of the state stay connected while staying home.
The check-in by phone program will call older adults who sign up for the service during a pre scheduled amount of time. When older Ohioans answer the phone, they will be asked a series of questions and responses will be done via touch tone to confirm they are okay or need to access local services.
If there are no responses after three attempts, a call is then made to an alternate contact, if one is provided. According to the Statehouse in Columbus, the service can be turned off at any time.
According to Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Robert Coornwell, during these times of uncertainty, he encourages older Ohioans to take advantage of the service.
“This program will help reduce isolation and support the health and well-being of older adults in our state,” Cornwell was quoted in a Statehouse report.
Residents of Ohio who are eligible can sign up at aging.ohio.gov or by calling 1-800-266-4346.
According to the Statehouse, staying connected is not an emergency response service. Those who choose to participate should keep in mind to always use 911 or their emergency response system if they are injured or in need of emergency assistance.
The Buckeye Hills Regional Council is Southeast Ohio’s designated area for aging, according to Communications Director Drew Tanner. Those who wish to participate in the state’s check-in program must go through the agency.
According to Jennifer Westfall, director of Aging and Disabilities at Buckeye Hills, if a senior indicates that they may need additional services or information, a referral will be made to Buckeye Hills.
“BHRC will be a referral point for those indicating that they are in need of or interested in additional resources or services,” Westfall told The Perry County Tribune. “This is a service that we provide to all residents of the eight-county region we serve during all times of the year.”
The director added that Buckeye Hills has three information and referral specialists who are going to be answering the call once forwarded by the state’s Staying Connected program.
According to the Ohio Department of Aging, check-in calls will be made from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Locals can sign up for a time that is best suited for them. They can also place a hold on these types of calls at any time.
“This is an Ohio Department of Aging initiative to help address senior isolation and well being during this unprecedented time,” Westfall explained. “Buckeye Hills Regional Council is happy to be able to partner with ODA in serving one of our most valuable populations living in our region.”
Again, those who can participate must be current Ohio residents aged 60 years or older. Participants must also have a valid phone number, mobile or landline, and provide an alternate contact which the department prefers but does not require.
Locals will need to provide basic identification information such as name and street address.