Essential services established for elders on-Island

In a coordinated effort, elder support organizations provide much-needed safety net.

Meals on Wheels deliveries are one of the services continuing for Island elders. — Lexi Pline

Updated March 19

All the elder support services on the Island are working around the clock to make sure that the Island’s elderly population has plenty of food and is safe and secure during the outbreak.

Many elderly and disabled people on Martha’s Vineyard rely on food distribution services because they either cannot leave their homes, or cannot prepare meals for themselves on a regular basis. 

Organizations like the Councils on Aging, Healthy Aging MV, and Island Elderly Housing are considering ways to ensure a plentiful supply of food for the population that is put at the highest risk during isolation.

Paddy Moore is the chair of Healthy Aging MV. She says that the councils on aging are taking a proactive approach to dealing with food insecurity.

Moore said the Edgartown Council on Aging is the only one that has a public health licensed kitchen and chef, so they are working to provide food via a curbside pickup, and a delivery service for the Island’s most susceptible population.

All the elder service organizations on the Vineyard are running through their lists of members and seeking to add names to that list of people who weren’t originally being provided support.

Moore said the Up-Island Council on Aging receives food from the Greater Boston Food Bank, and the next monthly food distribution will be on March 27.

They have collected a mixture of dried, refrigerated, and canned goods to distribute.

According to Moore, Islanders have been calling in to offer their help in delivering food and running errands for the elderly population.

Moore said people should reach out to Island elder services if they are concerned about food insecurity, or if they know of someone who may be at high-risk.

“If you have a friend, a neighbor, or a loved one who you think might need support, don’t hesitate to reach out, whether they are a member of the council or not,” Moore said.

One issue Islanders face is getting their prescriptions in a timely fashion, an issue which Moore said will need to be resolved soon.

“If it’s possible for Conroy’s or other pharmacies to deliver. Many people have 30-day prescriptions,” Moore said. “We are going to need longer than that. Perhaps extend those from 30 days, to 60 or even 90 days.”

This issue may necessitate a conversation with the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Moore said.

Soon, Moore hopes to have a central phone line set up for those who wish to volunteer, and another number for those who are in need of support.

Greg Rollins of the Edgartown Council on Aging said that if anyone is in a tough situation, they shouldn’t wait to call in.

“Anyone who needs food, we are still going to be producing meals and giving them out to people,” Rollins said.

On Thursday and Friday, the council will participate in a town wide telecommute rehearsal, which will prepare town entities in the event that they are required to work from home.

During that time, the council will still be doing deliveries, and will divert all calls to employees’ cell phones to answer questions and speak directly with members of the public.

After that time period, Rollins said things are still quite uncertain.

“Everything changes from day to day. Our plan yesterday is totally different from what we are doing today,” Rollins said. “What happens after that rehearsal, it’s just too early to tell.”

Even if the council is forced to shut its doors, Rollins said there will still be safety nets available for those who need food. 

“While in-house stuff gets put on hold, that just means outreach will be intensified,” Rollins said. “This town has dedicated staff to meet the needs of the people.”

Updated to correct information about restaurants providing food support. — Ed.