The Problems with the “Senior Center” Health Order

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The following letter was recently sent to Gov. DeWine, as well as the directors of the Ohio departments of Health and Aging, on behalf of our organization and the older adults we serve.

Dear Gov. DeWine,

As an organization that serves older adults in Ohio, I implore you to rescind the health order related to the opening of adult day care services and senior centers, last modified in October 2020.

First, it has been our belief since the beginning that senior centers do not belong in the same category as adult day care services. Each serves a unique population, with the only similarity being the ages of those served. Our enrichment center, or “senior center” to use outdated vernacular, serves adults ages 55 and older with programs that benefit their health and wellness, including physical fitness, education, socialization, and more. The current health order greatly limits our capacity and wrongly assumes all adults over a certain age are “vulnerable.” It silences the voices of independent older adults and takes away their choice to utilize beneficial services.

Second, the biweekly COVID-19 testing requirement established by the Ohio Dept. of Aging is problematic and impractical. SourcePoint successfully reopened our enrichment center programs in September, going above and beyond the established protocols to keep our staff, volunteers, and participants safe. Our efforts have worked—to date, we have experienced no signs of community spread. Testing has played no role in that achievement.

Instead, testing has become increasingly challenging. As a “senior center,” we do not employ medical staff, which makes the state-sponsored testing program useless to our organization. While we ultimately established a partnership with a local health care provider to address this issue, more arose. We continue to experience issues with insurance providers, with claims for testing denied and cited as not a “medical necessity.” This is particularly troublesome for the volunteers who help prepare Meals on Wheels, since many are covered by Medicare. The testing requirement is the primary reason several of our volunteers have resigned and many senior centers in Ohio have not yet reopened.

Third, and perhaps most relevant to your efforts to stop community spread of the virus, 85% of the 65-and-older population in Delaware County has been vaccinated. This is a significant accomplishment of our local health care providers. We are doing our part to contribute to this effort—SourcePoint’s center acts as a vaccine clinic site once a week for the Delaware Public Health District, which allows us to utilize our network and transportation resources to get more older adults to their appointments. We have also developed a plan in conjunction with the Health District and local EMS service to begin in-home vaccinations next week.

SourcePoint is a vital resource to older adults and family caregivers in Delaware County. At the heart of our facility is a community center—but because our center serves adults over a certain age, we continue to be penalized. This comes at the expense of our participants, who are unable to access critical programming at a time they need it most.

Regards,

Fara Waugh, LISW-S
Executive Director

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