For millions of seniors across the United States, their local senior center—think library, plus gym, plus Starbucks, all for seniors—is an invaluable source of socialization, enrichment, and support every single day.
For those seniors today and for the foreseeable future, COVID-19 and the massive disruptions it has caused to everyday life has rendered their local center shuttered entirely or at least severely limited in its ability to provide services.
Seniors are already at risk for social isolation; for many, no senior center means no socialization at all. And worse, for some it means a loss of meals.
MySeniorCenter is working to fix that. Since 2005, the organization has empowered local senior centers to better engage their constituents, save employee time, and access invaluable funding to support their programming. Now, they’re doing even more, helping senior centers connect with seniors during the coronavirus pandemic—and Twilio helps them make it happen.
MySeniorCenter gives centers the ability to streamline operations, thereby serving more seniors and saving employee time. The platform also provides senior centers with easily accessible analytics and data that gives the center more leverage when it comes to applying for funding and aid.
“Roughly 90 percent of all senior centers are municipally-driven, meaning they are managed by the city, town or county that they're based in and they get funding through local and federal government,” explained Chris Hamilton, President of MySeniorCenter.
The Older Americans Act has money set aside for Title III programs, including the nutrition-based programs that certain individuals are eligible for. That money trickles to the state and county governments and then to the senior center providers themselves. Centers also rely on external grants and other philanthropic support—and the vast majority of all of it depends on accurate reporting and record keeping. Senior centers can utilize MySeniorCenter’s offerings to manage those reports by ensuring served seniors are registered and counted.
On average, senior centers using MySeniorCenter can find an additional $60,000 in grants because of the data the platform provides them. And, the centers save, on average, sixteen hours per month, which equates to a half-time employee over the course of a year, Hamilton said.
“[The center] can reallocate that person to actually delivering services to seniors, because ultimately all the staff that work at a senior center didn't wake up one day and say, ‘I really would love an office job where I do paperwork all day,’” Hamilton said. “They get involved in a senior center because they want to deliver services to seniors and make those people's lives better. So they're able to now reallocate that person or that subset of a person to delivering real services to seniors.”
To ensure senior centers are able to communicate seamlessly with their patrons, MySeniorCenter uses Twilio Programmable Voice.
With Twilio Programmable Voice, the center is able to easily contact individuals and groups to relay relevant information and updates—anything from a new time or location for an event, to a reminder about a trip a patron registered for, to alert meal recipients that the delivery van is running a bit late. It’s a critical service, Hamilton said, that many seniors rely on.
“These home-delivered meals are delivered not only to people that come to the senior center, but also to seniors who are homebound or receive a meal through the senior center,” Hamilton said. “Often it’s the only human interaction they get all day, when someone comes to drop off their meal and checks in on them. If that doesn't happen when it's supposed to happen, it can cause some serious anxiety for people.”
Now, when senior centers are limited in their ability to provide services and communicate with their less-tech-savvy patrons thanks to social distancing orders due to COVID-19, those services are more critical than ever, Hamilton said.
With Twilio, MySeniorCenter has given senior centers the ability to get in touch with constituents to update them on meal locations and availability, and to expand the possibilities for remote socialization and enrichment, Hamilton said.
The company is expanding its offerings rapidly, and is piloting programs like virtual bingo via conference calling, and routine check-ins to assess individual health and wellness through this challenging time.
Hamilton said he sees those offerings remaining in place and even expanding once social distancing rules are relaxed. For a senior stuck at home thanks to an illness or recent surgery, for example, remote opportunities could provide a positive way for them to keep in touch until they’re able to engage in person at the center again. And, he added, without Twilio, that functionality would have never been possible.
“We love what we do, and Twilio has played a huge role in making sure we’re able to help people at this time,” he said. “This wasn’t what we designed MySeniorCenter’s voice element for, but thank goodness it’s there. Without Twilio, at this time it would be a very, very different experience for all those seniors at home.”