As a City of Malibu community services department recreation supervisor, the duties for Katie Gallo have changed now that City Hall is shut down. One of her new duties is now a highlight of her week. That happens every Wednesday, when she and other staff make wellness calls to members of the Malibu Senior Center.
The weekly wellness checks were established when Safer at Home orders were put in place and the Senior Center closed. Gallo and other full-time staff started calling more than 300 Malibu seniors and the list is growing. The staff provides resources such as Dial-a-Ride transportation, grocery delivery, pharmacy help, virtual recreation—“whatever they need to stay busy and keep their brains active,” according to Gallo.
“We give them a friendly voice—someone to talk to—answer questions, or if there’s new resources or programs we have to pass along—if there’s any way we can be of service to them,” Gallo said.
A frequent request is to be put in contact with organizations that do grocery delivery like the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu and Waveside Church that are highlighted in the Malibu Senior Center newsletter (now online at malibucity.org/seniorcenter).
“There’s a lot of helpful resources that seniors may not know about if they’re not searching the website,” Gallo noted.
It takes about 10 hours to call everyone on the list, which is now divided so three to four staff members can make weekly contact.
“A lot of the seniors are very excited to talk to us,” Gallo said, musing, “Maybe they haven’t had a lot of interaction with their own families.”
Sometimes, they just want someone to talk to,” Gallo continued. “They tell us about their week and how they’re excited to get back to their yoga classes. We definitely don’t rush the calls. If they want to talk to us and share their stories, we listen. That’s a big part of it, too. It’s not just about providing resources, but also having a friend on the other end of the line.”
During the last three weeks, the same staff member contacts the same seniors for consistency and to develop a rapport—”The seniors get to know us. We can pick up the conversation from the last week.”
A lot of seniors have asked about COVID-19 testing so staff has helped with preregistration for testing at City Hall.
So far, Gallo isn’t aware of any Senior Center member with COVID-19, but she has heard from members with lots of questions about it.
“They’re very excited for the Senior Center to reopen—for painting and art to resume,” she added. “They’re missing their friends and social circle. They’re also concerned about their friends more than themselves.
“You can feel a smile on the other end of the phone,” Gallo continued. “They’re so grateful. Being able to call my group of seniors—they’re excited to hear from me. I’m excited to talk with them. It’s cheerful.”
If you would like to be added to the weekly call list or add someone you know, call 310.456.2489 ext. 357.