With the physical distancing needed to keep seniors, their families, and respite caregivers safe from spreading the COVID-19 virus, Youth Movement Against Alzheimer's (YMAA) decided to suspend its in-person respite caregiving program, YouthCare. Leadership quickly identified MealsTogether as an innovative solution that would continue to meet the needs of seniors and young adults during this time of isolation, while also continuing to build intergenerational relationships. YMAA recruited over 10 new team members for this project and worked with a pro-bono branding company, Two Hands Brands, to develop this effort to its current stage within just 3.5 weeks. YMAA recognizes that launching as quickly as possible with a reliable and user-friendly structure is essential. As such, the structure and technology needed to implement the program has already been developed and is currently in beta testing. The goal is to launch an improved version in early May 2020, if not sooner, that has more features to ease the user experience for older adults. YMAA’s staff and board have approached this adaptation with a positive and creative mindset, and an unwavering focus on our mission to create intergenerational relationships. It is anticipated MealsTogether will serve over 5,000 individuals in the next six months, and over 100,000 by the end of 2021.
While developed as a reactive solution in a time of crisis, YMAA already sees the potential of incorporating MealsTogether into its larger work. The new program would increase both the breadth and depth of YMAA’s ability to develop relationships across a span of generations. MealsTogether will keep YMAA chapter members engaged, for the duration of COVID-related school closures, by leveraging their help in participating and marketing for MealsTogether. Furthermore, this program would generate a large database of youth who are interested in intergenerational relationships that can be leveraged for future chapter creation and would build relationships with family caregivers that will prove valuable as we expand YouthCare in 2021 and ensuing years.