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Supporting our Seniors Amid COVID-19

By Blue Cross NC | September 7, 2020 | 4 min read | Community Health, Community Partners, Investments, Public Health Challenges

Woman in mask delivers bag of groceries to elderly man

North Carolina seniors are at risk. Here’s how we’re helping support them.

Adjusting to our new routines during COVID-19 looks different for everyone. For some, it’s fewer trips to the mall or more meals at home. But for at-risk individuals, it can mean complete isolation.

As we now know, COVID-19 causes the most severe health issues for adults over 60, with particularly fatal results for those 80 years and older. This is forcing many senior citizens in our communities to stay indoors. While it helps limit coronavirus exposure, it also limits interactions with friends and family.

Senior isolation isn’t entirely a COVID-19 problem. But the virus has worsened the issue. In a pre-COVID study, 43% of seniors reported feeling lonely on a regular basis. In a post-pandemic study, this number jumped to 72%.

Not only is social isolation emotionally challenging–it also leads to physical health issues . These include higher mortality rates, poor cardiovascular function, impaired immunity, cognitive decline, and depression.

This population is also at higher risk of food insecurity. According to a recent study from Meals on Wheels, 34 percent of North Carolina seniors are threatened by hunger.

In an effort to help seniors remain independent and healthy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has invested $500,000 with Meals on Wheels of North Carolina. The organization is working to meet the increased need for food delivery to seniors across the state. The investment will be split equally among North Carolina’s 100 counties, resulting in a $5,000 commitment per county.

In a typical year, Meals on Wheels serves 41,711 North Carolina seniors. This year, with the help of Blue Cross NC, that number will increase by 11 percent.

These funds will be used to purchase items like refrigerators, freezers, packaging, and healthy food. Additionally, the investment will supplement delivery costs, PPE, temporary staffing support, and anything else that will help Meals on Wheels meet the needs of North Carolina seniors.

Women hold signs that read "Delivering meals and smiles"

Beyond food security

Meals on Wheels is finding other creative ways to support seniors experiencing social isolation. Meals on Wheels of Durham came up with a virtual game called “name that tune” that seniors can play over the phone. To play, participants hop on a call while the host plays music. Players compete against each other to see who can name each song the fastest. Games like this allow seniors to be social, while also being socially distant.

The Meals on Wheels mission is to empower communities to improve the health and quality of life of the seniors they serve so that no one is left hungry or isolated.

If you’d like to learn more about Meals on Wheels and how you can help support seniors in your community, visit the North Carolina branch website.

The Meals on Wheels program is just one of the many local programs that Blue Cross NC is investing in to aid our community in COVID-19 relief. To learn more relief efforts and the latest on COVID-19, visit https://www.bluecrossnc.com/covid-19.