Miami-Dade County, Florida, is home to 2.7 million people, 17 percent of whom are 65 or older. A member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities since 2016, the county’s age-friendly effort is called the Miami-Dade Age-Friendly Initiative.
“Early on, we recognized the importance of addressing the rising social isolation and food insecurity problems, and ensuring that residents have access to correct information,” say Isabel Rovira, Director, Miami-Dade Age Friendly Initiative and Teri Busse Arvesu, Senior Advocate, Miami-Dade Mayor’s Office.
Even before any cases were reported in the county, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez pulled together a task force encompassing more than 80 local stakeholders, including county officials and civic leaders working on housing, food assistance, and other sectors directly affected by the pandemic.
The task force created plans addressing COVID-19 risk assessments and public health decision-making for nursing homes, adult daycare programs at community centers , and adult living facilities, which were ready for immediate implementation when the first cases appeared. “Since then the county has been offering free COVID-19 testing, providing in-home testing where needed, and has also expanded rent relief programs,” explain Rovira and Busse Arvesu.
The county’s Emergency Senior Meals Service Program was soon equipped to deliver 80,000 meals a day. Older adults who were previously receiving meals in person at community facilities or adult daycare centers were quickly shifted to meal deliveries, and others can sign up by calling 311 or submitting a request online.
“The county’s comprehensive COVID-19 page serves as a one-stop-shop for updated information and resources with a specific section for food distribution and senior services,” Rovira and Busse Arvesu say. “There’s a map that features COVID-19 testing sites, food distribution sites, senior-only grocery shopping hours and mental health services.” Pandemic-related information for hurricane season is available on the website and the 2020 Hurricane Preparedness Guide released by the Office of Emergency Management.
To reduce social isolation among older residents and others who aren’t leaving their homes due to COVID-19, the county introduced a virtual exercise program called the Feeling Fit Club. Modeled on a program in San Diego, it provides video classes of varying difficulty for residents of all ages and abilities on the county’s TV station as well as on YouTube.
The Results, Thus Far
“The efforts have been successful due to the coordination with county departments, municipalities across the county, and local community organizations,” Rovira and Busse Arvesu report. For example, the age-friendly team and other local groups have been phone-banking to reach out to older residents and sharing what they learn through daily calls with senior organizations across the county.
This story is being shared through the AARP-NLC COVID-19 Older Adult Response Initiative. Share your COVID-19 Response focused on older adults with AARP and NLC.
Reporting, writing and editing by AARP (Shoshana Preuss, Melissa Stanton, Jay Walljasper, Mike Watson)