RECAPP Goals & Ideas
Social isolation, already a concern for many older people, intensified for many under stay-at-home orders and social distancing policies. Unable to shop for groceries, pick up medications at the pharmacy, and do other household tasks because of COVID restrictions or concerns about going to public places, older adults needed more assistance with household tasks. In some cases, in-home supports were suspended as agencies sought to minimize risk to their workers and older clients. Older people lost access to physical or occupational therapists and assistance with self-care, among other services. Regular medical care was disrupted. As more and more socializing, programming, and healthcare moved to virtual platforms, the divide separating those with access to broadband, technology, and the skills to use digital tools from those without became even more meaningful.
To address these challenges, local and state policymakers, Area Agencies on Aging, nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, village networks, affordable housing providers, and others undertook a wide array of response efforts. Some offered direct assistance to older adults, ensuring regular delivery of fresh food or providing tablets and internet access to facilitate communication with loved ones. Other programs offered indirect assistance, such as those that supported caregivers or increased funding for home and community-based services. Yet another category includes efforts to reduce administrative barriers, as with changes to health policy that allowed reimbursement for telehealth. The RECAPP project aims to identify promising housing-focused ideas like these that have been developed during the pandemic to address common challenges faced by older adults dwelling in the community – and that offer some lesson for the future, including those related to specific solutions as well as broader lessons for implementation. We are guided in this work by a network of experts in housing, social service provision, healthcare, and local and state policy.
As we continue to gather and synthesize these solutions, we welcome input from practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. If you or your organization have developed a promising idea, practice, or lesson over the last year and more, we invite you to share it with us. The project will result in publications of lessons learned and a virtual public events series.
Specifically, we are looking for policy ideas (not yet implemented) and practices (previously or currently implemented) in the following eight areas:
- Access to health – connecting people to healthcare and health-related information (e.g. in-home vaccinations, providing telehealth options)
- Social isolation – addressing mental health needs among older adults (e.g. wellness check calls, online classes)
- Supportive services – providing other essential in-home services (e.g. meal deliveries, subsidized transportation options)
- Digital divide – overcoming issues of unreliable internet and/or barriers to digital access (e.g. training for using technology, Wi-Fi provision)
- Neighborhood supports – strengthening community networks for older adults (e.g. creating or expanding local volunteer services)
- Housing safety – reducing health and safety risks (e.g. repairs, emergency preparedness)
- Housing affordability – minimizing the burden of housing payments (e.g. funding for in-home service coordination, community development)
- Housing accessibility – adapting infrastructure to suit residents’ needs (e.g. expert home assessments, funding for home modifications)