CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus pandemic shifts Johnson County TRAIL's tactics but mission remains same: Helping seniors

Audience members react to the discussion in 2017 during a University of Iowa conversation series on #x201c;Successfully
Audience members react to the discussion in 2017 during a University of Iowa conversation series on “Successfully Aging in Place: Keeping Older Johnson County Residents in Our Neighborhoods.” TRAIL is a program formed by Iowa City-area seniors interested in developing community-based solutions that allow seniors to continue to live in their homes and age in place. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A group created to help seniors remain in their homes is restructuring to better accommodate its members during the coronavirus pandemic.

TRAIL, otherwise known as Tools and Resources for Active Independent Living, is part of the Village to Village network. The national organization began in 2010 in Boston and guides and connects “villages” of older adults in the United States.

TRAIL began in 2017, when a group of Johnson County residents organized to help seniors age in place.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, board member Susan Shullaw knew Johnson County TRAIL needed to make some changes to support its seniors.

“A lot of older adults are struggling through COVID-19, and obviously it is a financial crisis as well as a health crisis,” Shullaw said. “We thought it might be a good time to remind folks that our program exists and can help a range of folks.”

Shullaw said TRAIL left its office in March, and staff began working from home. In-person events have been canceled, putting a strain on the ideals of community TRAIL has worked to promote. According to Shullaw, the need for social distancing has made it difficult for seniors to interact with one another.

“We’ve increased the amount of virtual events we are doing and increased our communications,” Shullaw said. “We’re still staying in touch, but it has been hard.”

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Shullaw said volunteers are wearing masks and following public health guidelines while running errands and giving rides to seniors involved in the program.

For 81-year-old Sharon Stubbs, a TRAIL member, the organization has provided many opportunities for her to have access to virtual events and get services she needs while remaining safe amid the pandemic.

Stubbs said TRAIL has provided her with masks and hand sanitizer and helped her get around and deal with issues that arose at home. Stubbs mostly has remained at home since the pandemic began.

“I don’t usually go out a lot — I just read, watch TV and do puzzles on my computer,” Stubbs said.

While Stubbs doesn’t intend on leaving her house much, TRAIL has helped her with her basic needs, she said.

“I know that they are there, so if I need something I can just call them — that’s a comfort.”

Comments: (319) 398-8372; alexandra.skores@thegazette.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

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