Iowa’s Area Agencies on Aging are at the frontline of meeting the needs of older Iowans, adults with disabilities, and family caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Older adults are at the highest risk for serious COVID-19 illness due to age-related changes in immune systems and, for some, underlying health conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80% of deaths associated with COVID-19 are adults over the age of 65. On March 18, 2020 the CDC COVID-19 Response Team stated in its report that “The risk for serious disease and death in COVID-19 cases among persons in the United States increases with age.” The CDC recommends that older adults maintain a supply of nonperishable foods and a 30-day supply of medications. Alongside these recommendations, the CDC recommends that older adults lower the risk for exposure to COVID-19 through social distancing. For older adults, social distancing creates additional challenges related to social isolation and limited access to supports and services, such as adequate food supplies and medication.
Iowa’s aging network was established under the Older Americans Act of 1965 and consists of the Iowa Department on Aging, six Area Agencies on Aging, and a provider network throughout the state. Iowa’s Area Agencies on Aging provide access to information and community-based supports and services to Iowans age 60+, adults with disabilities, and family caregivers. In FY19, Iowa’s aging network served over 2 million meals and provided information to over 18,000 individuals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa’s aging network is working to respond to the increased needs of Iowans.
Iowa’s Area Agencies on Aging are working to provide home-delivered meals, grab-and-go meals at congregate meal sites, and other nutrition services to older Iowans through their respective provider networks. Further, staff are routinely calling their list of clients to determine their current needs and health status. Area Agencies on Aging are in consistent contact with State of Iowa’s executive leadership and are working with public health, human services, local food banks, and education systems to ensure access to food and to reduce social isolation for older Iowans. Each Area Agency on Aging has worked to ensure that Iowans can get access to information and resources during this public health crisis. Joe Sample, executive director at the Iowa Association of Area Agencies, encourages Iowans to connect with LifeLong Links, Iowa’s aging and disability resource network. “If you or your loved one needs assistance, you can call 1-866-468-7887 to access LifeLong Links, where an Iowa-based professional will assist you in finding the resources you need in your community,” said Sample. For medication concerns, you are encouraged to connect with your medical provider or pharmacist to discuss your options.