The Arizona Association of Area Agencies on Aging is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic in Arizona. The health, safety, and well-being of older people and their families is our top concern and priority.

As is the case with many illnesses, older adults face a higher risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19 and also face a higher risk of death from the virus. This is especially true for those with underlying chronic medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified people over the age of 60 as a high-risk population, regardless of their health status.

CDC recommends that everyone, regardless of age, increase their daily hygiene to avoid illness:

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Keep your hands away from your face

Cover coughs or sneezes with your sleeve or tissue (immediately dispose of the tissue)

Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces often

Avoid contact with people who are visibly sick

Stay home if you’re sick

CDC recommends that older adults avoid gatherings, especially in enclosed spaces with little ventilation.

Local Area Agencies on Aging are working diligently to meet the needs of older adults while still embracing the CDC’s guidance of social distancing. Due to closures of senior centers and other facilities, congregate meals programs in some areas may be affected. Many of the Area Agency on Aging services may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, Healthy Living and Health and Wellness programs, walk-in hours to agency facilities, and more. Please contact your local Area Agency on Aging for more information about the services available in your area and how to access them.

Because of the scale and urgency of this outbreak, the Arizona Association of Area Agencies on Aging is joining our national and state partners to advocate for the need to access supplemental funding and emergency guidance for Older Americans Act (OAA) programs due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Specifically, the Arizona Association of Area Agencies on Aging urges that the following steps be taken:

Supplemental federal and state funding be provided to and maintained for nutrition programs for older adults through the Older Americans Act – until no longer needed – to replenish and expand the supply
of shelf-stable meals, frozen meals, and/or other nutrition services that are being or have already been provided in communities

Supplemental federal and state funding be provided to cover any of these eventualities:

Additional transportation and personnel costs that would be necessary if sites close where older adults currently receive meals in a group setting (e.g., senior centers, congregate cafes, community dining sites, etc.), as many of those affected will then become home-delivered meals recipients o Stocking all necessary preventive items at facilities serving meal to older adults (e.g., senior centers, congregate cafes, community dining sites, etc.), and local programs that would continue to deliver meals to homebound clients, ranging from alcohol-based hand sanitizers and moisturizers to masks and additional gloves.

Implementation of COVID-19 preparedness plans and community outreach, including specialized guidance and training for staff and volunteers in nutrition programs and/or via web-conferences

Additional supplies of protective gear like face masks and gloves to the Area Agencies on Aging to ensure that staff entering long-term care facilities or interaction with an older adult is safe for both parties. As these products are difficult to obtain due to pressures on the market, it is imperative that the State of Arizona provide additional supplies to the Area Agencies on Aging as they become available.

The Arizona Association of Area Agencies on Aging is continuing to monitor this situation and to follow the lead of our national partners. We urge everyone to remain calm, prepare, and practice common-sense precautions to remain safe and healthy.

The safety and well-being of the older adults we serve is our utmost concern. Please consult your local Area Agency on Aging for specific service-related questions, as procedures may vary from region to region.