The COVID-19 pandemic shut down visits to the physical offices of Utah's AAA, senior centers, and other facilities. As a result, shifting to online services was more complicated than it had been for other organizations. Having a partnership with Utah's Aging and Disability Resource Center (federal crisis funding was awarded), we helped upgrade the agencies' computers and equipment. Companion pets were popular among seniors because they were low maintenance but increased interaction in many areas (i.e., friends and family, personal well-being, etc.). In addition, we created step-by-step training for people with disabilities, family members, and representatives of education and community living on how to use technology.
As a result, more referrals are coming through independent living centers and other senior centers. But, of course, no one agency could perform all the work on its own; by building a positive trustful relationship, our interaction with the agencies continues to improve, and the consumers reach out more for our services. Understanding our limits is essential; Utah is a large state with limited personnel within the organizations, so it is hard to reach everyone in the state (mainly rural areas). Therefore, understanding where the organization is located and the capacity and willingness to collaborate make a massive difference in how we reach more individuals. Although this was a one-time event, hoping to continue to work with senior serving entities and veterans to support their needs.