Santosh Kumar and others at MAFS event
Santosh Kumar and others at MAFS event

Sucharita Sunder

CHICAGO: Universal Metro Asian Services (UMAS) and Metropolitan Asian Family Services (MAFS), the two premiere but allied agencies service Chicagoland seniors for over more than decade, have again risen to the occasion when the Corona crisis has gripped not only Metro Chicago but also the nation and the world.

Ever since middle of March, Adult Dy Services (ADFS) centers of UMAS were ordered to be closed by the State of Illinois due to the Corona pandemic times.  UMAS could not just close and forget or ignore the elder ethnic populations and it has decided to render services through its 6 ADS centers.  

Since that day they are keeping in   touch with the ADS participants besides continuing to provide healthy nutritious meals.  Ethnic meals are prepared in their very own kitchens by the dedicated staff, packaged and delivered to clients by ADS drivers daily.   Also, there is a daily wellness checks by phone by nurses, Activity Coordinators, Activity Aides and other office staff.  Zoom connection is being done by each individual center with the participants and is done by manager/office staff.  

On top of this, activities like singing, prayers, storytelling, memory games/riddles, bingo, exercise, talks from the heart, telling jokes, word games and sharing food recipes are conducted during the Zoom or WhatsApp video calling days. This is done for all ADS members.  The Agency staff has taught members how to get connected to Zoom by sending the links through WhatsApp.   ADS staff is connected at least 5 hours per day with either a group of participants and or one-on-one phone calls.  They are very happy and look forward to the daily phone contacts and the Zoom or WhatsApp day meetings.

  For participants who are unable to Zoom or WhatsApp, the office staff calls them daily and chats with them to make sure they are doing well.  Wellness calls are made daily and the agency is making sure that their needs are met during these crucial and devastating times.  UMAS In-Home Care services continue as usual following the guidelines of the State For help VISIT WWW.UMASINC.COM

At these times of the COVID 19 havoc, UMAS/MAFS have been guided by their goal to make sure the seniors of the community are safe and healthy.  And with this end in view though the congregate meal program at UMAS locations are temporarily suspended adhering to the COVID-19 Stay-At-Home orders, the senior participants are assured of fresh and healthy meals prepared every day at their locations and are now done homebound! The seniors get the same nutritious and home cooked meals, which include lunch and snacks, delivered to their homes as per their needs.  They are happy and proud to serve over 250 meals. For more information on delivery of meals please call 847.306.7606.

Ms Santosh Kumar
Ms Santosh Kumar

For the safety of the senior participants these two agencies have suspended some of the programs temporarily as per IDOA, IDPH and CDC. But, this did not stop MAFS/UMAS from being in touch with the senior participants of the community. MAFS responded to the need of the seniors by adapting some of its programs from in-person social gathering to virtual sessions online. This ensured that the seniors are not deprived of any benefits from these programs and remain socially connected during these difficult times of isolation.

In order to maintain, it’s main goal to eliminate stress, anxiety, isolation which causes depression and many other mental disorders among seniors participants, two such success stories are of Memory Café Program and Adult literacy Classes conducted online. When they checked with the seniors about the possibility of a virtual Memory Café, they showed great enthusiasm for it! That motivated the organization as a team to go ahead and organize it via zoom, as it was the most convenient platform for all. As one of the managers quotes; “It was a delight to see them come together virtually, jog down the memory lane and beat social isolation by having a great time with their co-friends”

Memory Café is a wonderful, welcoming place for individuals with mild memory loss.  Memory Café focuses on different aspects for a unique experience. In this program they participate in variety of activities like memory games, crafts, music, painting and motivational speeches with family member or caregivers. Memory Café is beneficial not only to those affected but to the caregivers as well. It is not just a place to just “drop off” your loved one for a while, but also a way to enjoy activities with them as a break from the normal routine. They can simply enjoy the company of those with similar things in common. Activities are varied but tend to focus on the pictures that are apt to cause one to reminisce about times gone by.

Similarly, MAFS’ Adult literacy classes for seniors are also conducted online via zoom. Seniors from Roselle ADS center got together online to study Math and English to brush up their basic literacy skills. MAFS is proud of its seniors who continue to display their zeal for learning despite the lockdown and all the negativity around! Many of these elders have not had an opportunity to go to school to study, due to limited mobility, infrastructure and most of all lack of educational institutions.

Elder literacy initiative was brought to honor their dedication to learning, by developing a curriculum specifically for low-literate elders. They are running this program from three locations, Chicago, Niles and Naperville. At present, have registered 50-60 elder students who are tutored by Twenty-five volunteer Tutors.

This program has undoubtedly helped the seniors improve their English learning skills. It has simplified their day to day living by helping them manage their banking needs by reading, understanding, writing and signing their own forms. They can communicate on the telephone with ease! The program has also enabled them to communicate with their grandchildren effortlessly. They can now count currency therefore helping them to shop and be independent. They can understand and watch regular TV programs.  Anybody interested in enrolling in this program, please call at -800-866-8627 for further information.

Inspiration and leaders ship for both MAFS and UMAS has been provided by Smt Santosh Kumar who has been often rightly called Mother Teresa of Chicago She observed in a talk to this paper that founded in 2000, the goal of Universal Metro Asian Services (UMAS) was originally to serve the immigrant populations of South Asia. But now any senior can avail of its services.  Its motto is to Provide services to help the elderly remain in their home rather than be institutionalized in nursing homes.