Senior Life Special Section: Ethos Helps Navigate Seniors Through Troubling Pandemic times

JP-based nonprofit Ethos has been helping seniors stay independent since 1974 with various programs and services.

The Gazette spoke with Raymond Santos, Ethos’ Development Chief & Community Relations Officer, to learn more about how Ethos assists seniors in the community, especially during the public health crisis.

“We are what’s called an aging services access point,” Santos said, which is a “state designa-tion for agencies that provide home and community-based programming and services for old-er adults and the younger disabled.”

Ethos provides home care and nutrition services, as well as Meals on Wheels straight to the homes of seniors, along with Medicare counseling and other services and programs.

“The goal is to keep seniors healthy, active, and living independently in the community,” San-tos said.

When it comes to COVID-19, Santos said that “obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has affect-ed older adults disproportionately,” as well as “exacerbated a number of different issues” for them. “Social isolation was also a major crisis for older adults before the pandemic.”

He said that to help out with these issues, Ethos has “more than doubled our Meals on Wheels program,” delivering about 12,000 meals to seniors each day.

Additionally, all of Ethos’ programming that would have otherwise been provided in person has been moved online so seniors can still participate virtually. He said things like fall prevention classes, exercise classes, and others are “all available to seniors free of charge online.”

Ethos also offers “telephone reassurance programs,” Santos said, that allow a connection “with those most isolated and at risk.”

Santos said that “most importantly and most recently,” Ethos has been “assisting with vac-cine rollout” through partnering with places and organizations like Boston Medical Center, the Boston Public Health Commission, and the City’s Age Strong Commission to “help provide ac-cess to vaccination opportunities for seniors.”

He said that to help overcome the “challenges” faced by seniors across the city and state in accessing the online appointment finder, “Ethos is acting as a bridge between the seniors and technology tools” by “providing them with assistance in helping them schedule those ap-pointments for them and their trusted companions.”

Santos said they work with these partners “to create exclusive opportunities to get our clients and our seniors scheduled for their vaccine. “That’s really important,” he said, as is bringing available appointments “as close to seniors as possible.”

Ethos also offers several health and wellness programs throughout the year; that help with things like balance, preventing falls, managing chronic conditions, providing caregiver support, improving memory fitness, and more.

“We’ve taken those classes and re-tooled them so they can be taken through Zoom,” Santos said. This way, seniors can still socialize with each other and their neighbors while still remain-ing “active in their homes,” he said.

“Ethos continually works to identify seniors who are at greatest risk for social isolation, and when possible, we’re able to help bridge that digital divide” by “assisting them with a device or modest stipend to assist them with purchasing internet access” for the lowest income sen-iors, Santos said, as many seniors face challenges when it comes to technology.

“The environment we’re operating under is extremely expensive,” Santos said, between “out-fitting staff and Meals on Wheels drivers” with personal protection equipment and hand sani-tizer, as well as “maintain extremely high levels of cleanliness.”

He thanked the “generous donors” who have helped to make this possible, adding that Ethos “continually needs support in order to continue to deliver these programs.” To make a dona-tion, residents can visit  https://www.ethocare.org or call (617) 522-6700.

“We continue to encourage folks to maintain their social distance,” Santos said, as well as “encourage folks to get vaccinated when those opportunities come up, and stay healthy and safe.”

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