Mission, Delivered

Legislation | May 08, 2020 | by Linda Couch

Deborah Royster, Chief Executive Officer of Seabury Resources for Aging and LeadingAge Board Member, joined LeadingAge’s daily COVID-19 call. Seabury’s mission is to provide personalized, affordable services, and housing options to help older adults in the greater Washington, DC, area live with independence and dignity.

Deborah Royster, Chief Executive Officer of Seabury Resources for Aging and LeadingAge Board Member, joined LeadingAge’s daily COVID-19 call. Seabury’s mission is to provide personalized, affordable services, and housing options to help older adults in the greater Washington, DC, area live with independence and dignity.

On shifting Seabury’s services to address the pandemic, Ms. Royster said there was a “very sudden and dramatic change in how we deliver our services to our clients in their homes and help prevent social isolation.”

One of Seabury’s program areas that has changed dramatically is its meal delivery and transportation services, which it provides to Washington, DC’s older adults in partnership with the D.C. Department of Aging and Community Living. Typically, Ms. Royster said, drivers for Seabury Connector buses, which one sees traversing the city constantly, would bring residents to community-based meal sites. That all changed over the course of a weekend. Instead of bringing about 350 customers to a community-based meal sites, the “amazingly dedicated drivers” of Seabury Connector switched to home delivery of meals to more than 2000 older adult customers.

Ms. Royster commended the D.C. Department of Aging and Community Living for their leadership, said the logistics of the system are a very complicated organization of dispatching, and call host Ruth Katz, SVP for Policy, noted the incredible nimbleness of Seabury. “A logistical accomplishment,” Ms. Royce called the transition to home-delivered meals for more than 1500 additional clients.

Asked about Seabury’s affordable senior housing communities, Ms. Royster described how Seabury staff have really stepped up to the challenges before them. Unlike before the pandemic struck, Seabury affordable housing communities now provide all residents with meals (regardless of their ability to pay), have regular wellness check-ins with residents, do grocery store runs, provide tablets when needed to prevent social isolation, and have carts of goodies, treats, and puzzles taken through the hallways.

Ms. Royster described a particularly spectacular show of strength, character, and integrity of Seabury staff. In one of the three supportive housing group homes Seabury owns and manages for formerly homeless older adults, one resident tested positive for the coronavirus. Staff quickly volunteered: one to live with and take care of this resident one-on-one, and another to live with the other six residents. “They left their families,” Ms. Royster said. Now, the resident has completely recovered and all are well.

Ms. Royster was also asked if she’s seen the pandemic’s racial disparities play out. Washington, DC, has very interesting demographics, Ms. Royster said, including many African American who are “older old,” people who moved north to D.C. in several decades ago and who, today, often fall into high risk categories because of underlying health conditions. “We are indeed seeing these disparities playing out with our customers,” Ms. Royster said, “and our frontline workers. We have seen illness and one death among our staff. Absolutely devastating.”

Register for LeadingAge’s daily, 3:30pm ET, COVID-19 calls.