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Age-Friendly Boston, Massachusetts, Responds to COVID-19

A look at how the city is serving and protecting its older residents

A city of nearly 700,000 people, about 11 percent of whom are 65 or older, Boston, Massachusetts, joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in 2014. Its age-friendly efforts are led by the Age Strong Commission, the city's department focused on serving residents over the age of 55.

Community Representatives: 

Safe Shopping

Morning Grocery Store Hours for Seniors

An informational handout and ad from the office of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh provides locations and times for dedicated grocery shopping hours for older adults.

Shea and Burns explain how the community is helping its older residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

(Information provided to AARP on May 26, 2020)

The Challenge

"The most pressing concern for Boston has been ensuring adequate food access for our residents. This issue became particularly acute as the majority of older adults are not leaving their homes during this health crisis. Due to this increasing need, we have pivoted much of our response to making sure people have enough food and focused on expanding existing programs and creating new partnerships to fill the gaps in service."

The Response

"We partnered with the city's Office of Food Access and the Boston Planning & Development Agency to coordinate a city-wide response. We are screening and providing referrals for assistance through our 3-1-1 call center and the Age Strong Commission. Individuals are directed to the assistance based on the needs they indicate. For food assistance, this could be either prepared meals or groceries.

"For prepared meals we refer the individual to the Meals on Wheels program that's run through our partners Ethos and the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center.

"For groceries, we put people on a list for grocery delivery. The need is so great that our list for grocery delivery grows every day. Residents can also look on our food support map for the closest locations for food assistance and find locations serving adults, along with food pantries, soup kitchens, and meal sites for youth.

The Focus Area

"Additional resources, including connections to other food resources and information on special grocery store hours, are available on the city’s Food Resources During COVID-19 webpage, which is updated by the Office of Food Access and the Age Strong Commission. 

"To meet the growing need, we also established relationships with local food pantries and have a scheduled delivery system using Boston Police Department cadets, Boston Centers for Youth & Families staff, and The RIDE, a paratransit ride service operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

"We offer scheduled deliveries for older adults, people in quarantine and public school families who can’t access the youth meal sites, and others in situations that prevent them from accessing food. We also receive a number of same-day emergency requests from older adults who cannot leave their homes. In those cases, we mobilize The RIDE and members of our staff to do a same-day food delivery from food pantries.

Response Partners

"While food pantries are able to help provide a supply of groceries for individuals who are reaching out, they can’t address the needs of the large senior-housing buildings filled with people who need help.

"To increase access and the food supply, we’ve partnered with About Fresh and the Greater Boston Food Bank. About Fresh is an organization dedicated to bringing food to communities who need it and is funded through the Boston Resiliency Fund, which is helping coordinate fundraising efforts to support Boston residents most affected by COVID-19.

"Some 2,500 individuals are receiving biweekly boxes of fresh produce that contain a variety of fruits and vegetables. In addition, the food bank provides pallets of food to the city. With the help of volunteers and trucks from the Newmarket Business Association, we then pack and distribute 2,400 boxes of food a week to senior housing buildings throughout Boston."

The Results, Thus Far

"In coordination with our partners, we’re delivering thousands of food bags every week and helping thousands of constituents navigate this difficult time.

"We’ve been able to have such a wide impact due to our partnership and support from the Boston Resiliency Fund, which has so far awarded $9 million dollars in grants to food access programs including to Ethos, the Greater Boston Food Bank, Project Bread, and many small community-based organizations that are working on the grassroots level to reach immigrant populations, people who have been laid off from jobs, families, seniors and others.

"The funding has helped us support and reach a broad range of older adults and other individuals facing food insecurity."

Age Strong Stories

Click on the image to hear "age strong" stories.

Research by Shosanna Preuss  | Article published May 2020

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