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Senior Spotlight: May 15, 2020

Editor’s Note: For the next several weeks, in addition to its regular coverage of happenings, Spotlight will focus on Council on Aging programs during the COVID-19 crisis.

Latest news

The Harvard Council on Aging is offering free “grab and go” dinners for older adults on Thursdays at 2 p.m. during the month of May, thanks to a state grant. COA Director Debbie Thompson said the free dinners are very popular, and while she saw an increase in orders this week, the chef is still able to keep up with demand. Meals must be ordered by 3 p.m. Tuesday. Two meals per person will be packed for reheating in microwavable containers and distributed at Hildreth House. When picking up meals, wear a mask and stay in your car; meals will be deposited in the back seat. A list of sample meals is in the May newsletter, but callers will not be able to choose. If you cannot drive to Hildreth House to pick up a meal, let the COA know. For more information and to sign up, call the COA at 978-456-4120.

The Adopt-a-Senior program is still working well, Thompson said, and she currently has enough volunteers. Those who would like to be matched with a volunteer who will check in with them regularly, make trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, or provide other assistance, should contact the COA at 978-456-4120. Note that volunteers try to consolidate trips to limit their own risk, so they may not be able to go to a specific grocery store.

As for cloth masks, Thompson said the COA currently has a sufficient supply, and she gave six to the Fire Department earlier this week. But she added that “if making masks is helping people to stay sane, we’ll take them.” To request a mask for delivery or pickup, call the COA.


The COA May newsletter has been emailed or mailed to residents on the COA mailing list and is also available on the town website. Contact the council if you did not receive a newsletter but would like one. The newsletter contains this month’s program calendar; all meetings and events are being conducted with Zoom. Director Thompson said the weekly virtual exercise classes are well attended, and she encourages everyone to give the classes a try while they are still free during the month of May. There is at least one exercise class each morning during the week.

Zoom help

Zoom meetings and classes may be joined via phone or computer. Instructions on how to join a Zoom meeting or exercise class will be provided when you contact the COA to sign up.

The COA held a class last week on how to use Zoom, and Thompson said it was full with a waitlist, but the class will be offered again in the near future. On May 15 at 11 a.m. the COA is giving a class on how to host a Zoom meeting. Participants should have taken the prior class or have some experience using Zoom. Thompson said the class is currently full with a waitlist, but it may be expanded, so those interested should still call to sign up. This class will also be offered again.

Computer volunteers are available to help with Zoom technical issues on Tuesdays and Fridays. To get help, call the COA to make an appointment describing your question or issue, and a computer volunteer will get back to you.

Deadline extended to apply for Elderly and Disabled Taxation Aid

The deadline to apply for assistance from the Elderly and Disabled Taxation Aid Fund has been extended to June 15. Anyone who turned 65 on or before July 1, 2019, or is disabled, and who expects they may have difficulty paying their property taxes in the next fiscal year (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) may apply. Applications and eligibility guidelines are available on the town website under “Boards and Committees,” “Elderly and Disabled Taxation Aid Committee.” Director Thompson told the Press that the eligibility guidelines document still has the old application deadline of May 15, but she wants to assure residents that the deadline has been extended to June 15.

Staff hours, Meals on Wheels, COA van

Hildreth House is closed, but the COA staff is available Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. by phone (978-456-4120) and email ( If at all possible, contact the COA only during its business hours when staff is available to respond. Meals on Wheels will provide prepackaged lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays to those who were already getting that service before the pandemic, and to anyone who came to the Tuesday/Thursday lunches at Hildreth House.

The COA van still offers rides for medical appointments. Only one rider is allowed at a time, and riders must wear face coverings. The Council on Aging will drop off masks to riders in advance if they are needed; the cloth masks should be washed before first use. The van driver wears a mask and gloves, and the van is disinfected in the morning and after every ride. The van is also available to pick up orders from Loaves & Fishes.

—Compiled by Joan Eliyesil

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