The Impact of COVID-19 on Community-Based Organizations Serving Older Adults

Across the nation, community-based organizations that provide vital services to enable older adults to stay in their own homes are struggling to continue supporting their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April and July 2020, NCOA surveyed 890+ organizations to understand this impact. As part of the nation’s aging network, these organizations provide services such as meals, senior centers, healthy aging programs, benefits enrollment, caregiver support, transportation, and more.

July 2020 Highlights

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Older Adults’ Needs

  • In July, the needs of older adults during the pandemic had shifted from food and supplies to staying socially connected, with 72% listing it first.

Technology Access

  • The digital divide means less than half of older adults have what they need to stay connected virtually. Only 38% are comfortable using the internet, and 49% have broadband access.

Community-Based Organizations

  • Organizations shifted quickly from in-person services to virtual, phone, and home delivery. 61% stopped congregate meals and started home-delivered meals, while 45% moved caregiver support to virtual or phone.
  • The pandemic has decreased organizations’ resources and spurred them to work with other groups to continue serving older adults. 84% have reduced volunteers, and 55% are now working with their local departments of health.
  • Organizations are starting to make plans to reopen, while following local health guidelines. 49% are developing plans, but are not ready to move ahead yet.

April 2020 Highlights

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Older Adults’ Needs

  • Older adults reported needing help with picking up groceries or meal deliveries (64%) and accessing masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, etc. (63%).

Technology Access

  • Respondents estimated that over half of their older adult clients lack broadband internet access, and even fewer are comfortable using the internet (39%) or own a tablet or computer at home (38%).

Community-Based Organizations

  • Organizations suspended or decreased in-person programs such as falls prevention education (37%) and congregate meals (35%), while increasing or introducing home-delivered meals (35%) and take-home meals (26%). 90% moved services to virtual or phone, including benefits counseling (25%) and caregiver support (24%).
  • 45% said they lost a great deal or quite a lot of their revenue due to the pandemic. While more than 80% relied on volunteers, 92% reported their volunteer workforce had reduced or stopped working.

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