The New York City suburb of Montclair, New Jersey, is home to about 39,000 people, 20 percent of whom are age 60 or older.
The township joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities in 2015. Montclair's age-friendly effort is called Lifelong Montclair.
- Katie York, Director, Montclair Senior Services/Lifelong Montclair, explains how the community is helping its older residents during the coronavirus pandemic.
(Information provided to AARP Livable Communities on May 14, 2020)
“The most pressing issue we've faced is a rise in food insecurity, which is casting a wider net than is typical in this community. We also knew that social isolation would be an issue for the older residents in our community."
The Focus Areas
“To address food insecurity, we've partnered with Toni's Kitchen, a local soup kitchen to distribute bags of groceries and prepared foods to older residents. The local Kiwanis chapter has been coordinating drivers to distribute the food, and local businesses and organizations have donated their time and resources.
“The distribution of the food bags is unique in that financial need is not a requirement to participate. I’ve been referring to the bags as a “Keep-Your-Behind-at-Home” incentive.
“To address social isolation, we worked with older residents to determine the best online platform, and then we converted our Montclair Institute for Lifelong Learning classes to Zoom for the spring semester. The institute’s classes range from tai chi and chair yoga (“Sit and Be Fit!”) to philosophy, Renaissance humanism and Zen art.
“Employees from the test-prep firm Manhattan Prep volunteered their time to train our instructors on how to use Zoom effectively and to help us set up our classes in a way that balances security and accessibility.
"The Montclair Public Library also hosted virtual drop-in sessions to help students become familiar with and set up Zoom and they’ve been helping our staff offer a half-hour of technical assistance prior to the first session of each class. To increase accessibility, all the classes are recorded and posted on YouTube and, for those without internet access, streamed on the local cable TV channel.
"All of the COVID-19 related changes and new services that impact and support senior services are detailed on Montclair Township's coronavirus website."
The Results, Thus Far
“We’re delivering food bags to more than 500 older residents each week. We’ve been leveraging the bags to continue updating residents about relevant news, such as reminding them to complete the 2020 Census and providing the phone numbers and websites for doing so.
“Despite all of the changes to the Montclair Institute for Lifelong Learning classes and the challenges virtual classes can pose, we’re seeing a strong turnout. Having scheduled class times has been especially beneficial during a time when the days start to blend into one another.”
Research by Shosanna Preuss | Article published May 2020
- Learn about the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities
- Check out the network's Member List
- Connect with AARP New Jersey
- Find more Age-Friendly Responses to COVID-19
The weekly, award-winning AARP Livable Communities e-Newsletter provides local leaders with information and inspiration for making their town, city or neighborhood more livable for older adults and people of all ages. Subscribe today!