Broome County's Office for Aging is emerging out of the pandemic shut-down with a new director and refreshed ideas for supporting local seniors.

Mary Whitcomb, who has spent the past 19 years at Catholic Charities of Broome County, has taken over as the head of the county agency from long-time director Lisa Schule, who leaves the office after 35 years.

Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News
Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News

Whitcomb is the guest on the weekly, local public affairs program, Southern Tier Close.

Whitcomb says the transition at this time, just as programs are starting to resume and everything begins to emerge from the pandemic shutdown, was actually good as things had been on pause and there was a chance to step back and prepare to start over.

The Senior Centers in Broome County are finally back open, offering the socialization and support so many older residents missed during the months of shut-down and semi-isolation. But, Whitcomb says, OFA is learning that some of the quarantine-time provisions like virtual video interactions are assets that can continued to be used now.

New York State is establishing a sort of state-wide senior center using virtual technology, so seniors are getting the opportunity to interact and share experiences with a wider and more diverse group of people than ever before.

WNBf News/Roger neel Photo
WNBf News/Roger neel Photo

While a lot of things are back on track, Whitcomb says, unfortunately, the Senior Games and Senior Picnic are canceled again this year.  She says the lifting of restrictions just didn't come in time for OFA to be able to put the mechanisms in place that are necessary to hold the events.

Meanwhile, opportunities are expanding for even more people to participate in the Foster Grandparent program and schools are preparing to get back into full operation for the fall semester.  Foster Grandparents read and interact with area children in the schools, providing essential guidance, education and social interaction.  The program also allows seniors on fixed income to earn some money as well.

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Seniors who meet financial qualifications can participate in the program and be paid a stipend. But the big reward comes from the relationship between the Foster Grandparent and their assigned child/children, the rest of the children in the classroom, the teachers and the parents.

Anyone interested in that program can contact "Vince" at Office for Aging at (607) 778-2411.  Information on other programs available through OFA can also be accessed by calling that number.

Southern Tier Close Up airs Saturdays at 6:03 a.m. on News Radio 1290 WNBF and anytime on the WNBF podcast.

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