Published on December 18, 2020

Planning for life in limbo

Michelle Meier, Senior Resource Center 

These days we are all used to announcements of closings and changes in plans on short notice. We have all been living this dance for the last nine months. The reality of COVID-19 has reached our community and rages strong across the state.

Near the beginning of the pandemic, the staff at the Senior Resource Center (SRC) were handling a target date for a move, just having come out of a very long-term practice session of waiting while our building was being remodeled. Staff endured a three-year rollercoaster ride in limbo with an end to the ride around the corner. SRC had just reached a peak of adding new activities and were seeing a trend of growth and activity long dreamt about.

It can be hard to wrap your head around the contingencies involved with a global pandemic. The reopening developed by our executive director, which the team had hoped would happen in July, still holds strong. Staff transitioned back to working in the building by mid-June, and a select few in-person appointments were held during the Open Enrollment period. However, for now, SRC’s doors remain closed to the public through the end of 2020.

And yet, the staff, along with area seniors, have learned to adapt to the reality of the COVID-19 world. SRC has proven to be quite resilient when it came to coming together to make things happen. We continue to utilize our Senior Wheels team to deliver groceries to seniors who want to avoid exposure in the stores. We have transitioned several of our regular activities to a virtual format. We’re ready for a time when we can welcome seniors back to our facility, but after two surveys, we found that seniors just aren’t ready to venture out until we are much closer to an “all clear” from the county as well as national officials.

SRC continues to work with community partners who face many of the same challenges to keep area seniors active and/or provide vital services to the community. As the place people call for information, SRC has been able to assist with food box deliveries from Just Food and Salvation Army, helped seniors access masks from the United Way and led people to CARES Act funding for those who qualify with the City of Lawrence. The team continues to work with several long-term partners who, like the SRC, find they have to pivot their plans to provide services to seniors in the community. Several of these partners continue to or used to hold activities in the SRC building and face challenges in finding ways to continue to provide services while the facility remains closed.

Gayle Sigurdson, Lifelong Recreation Programmer with Lawrence Parks and Recreation, has had to pare down the list of activities throughout the fall, with only one virtual class, Beginning Mindfulness, being offered in January to ensure senior safety.

“It has been quite a transition for us. This fall we were able to offer a few smaller classes, but we have had to hit pause on our Lifelong Travel Program,” said Sigurdson. “This is our first foray into the virtual world, but having talked to various partners like SRC, I know seniors need the engagement and have quickly adjusted to utilizing technology to stay active.”

Adjusting to the current landscape of COVID-19 protocols, Sarah Merriman, AARP Tax-Aide District Coordinator, is working diligently to coordinate the launch of AARP Tax-Aide services in January. Last year, annual tax preparation services were abruptly discontinued across the country as the pandemic hit. This year, plans for curbside services are being developed to ensure seniors have access to this important program with deeper contingency plans if needed. Merriman is already working with community partners to ensure they can roll out the services in Lawrence and across Douglas County. 

“Things will look a lot different this year, as we will have no face-to-face meetings this year,” Merriman said. “Everything will be done by curbside drop off, but we are working with AARP to ensure a system where we can securely scan and store sensitive information and work with customers over the phone to clear up questions.”

The biggest hurdle currently will be confirming the drop-off site in Lawrence, but Merriman is working with Central United Methodist Church and the Senior Resource Center on the final details.

“Our other locations in Baldwin City, Oskaloosa, and Ottawa remain the same, but we will be working hard to let people know what to expect this year,” she said.

To learn more about the 2021 protocols for utilizing area AARP Tax-Aide services, visit www.taxaideks24.com to find a list of needed items to bring at drop-off as well as the vital consent forms which need to be completed in advance. Local seniors can call the local appointment line at 785-691-9737 with questions and to schedule a drop-off time beginning January 19, which is two weeks before appointments start. For questions regarding AARP Tax-Aide services outside of Lawrence, call the district line at 785-813-1136 for information about services in other Douglas County and surrounding communities.

Megan Poindexter, executive director of the Senior Resource Center, has been a part of numerous teams in the community that continue to watch the current landscape and work on ways to ensure that seniors in the community have access to essentials, as well as desired services and engagement.

“With the implementation of the first rounds of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are all hopeful that we can begin planning a date to move beyond Stage 2 of our initial plan and re-open our doors,” she said. “But for now, we will continue to follow the lead of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department and LMH Health and work with our community partners to provide essentials in ways that will ensure the health and well-being of our community.”


Michelle Meier is the director of community engagement for the Senior Resource Center, a community partner of LMH Health.

Michelle Meier is the director of community engagement for the Senior Resource Center, a community partner of LMH Health.

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Planning for life in limbo