The Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) on Tuesday announced a free, daily check-in by phone service for Ohio’s older residents to ensure their well-being amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The program was announced during Gov. Mike DeWine’s daily news conference.

The service, named Staying Connected, is open to Ohio residents age 60 or older who have a valid phone number. The state encourages those living alone in the community to enroll.

“During a time when physical distancing has become necessary, we must create ways to maintain social connectedness,” said ODA Director Ursel McElroy. “The impact of isolation has been linked to higher risks for serious physical and mental conditions, so I am pleased we can provide these check-ins at a critical time.”

The state hopes that the new program will not only help maintain the health of older Ohioans but also help reduce feelings of isolation among the demographic.

“Especially during this very challenging time, we encourage older Ohioans to sign up for the Ohio Department of Aging’s Staying Connected phone program. This program will help reduce isolation and support the health and wellbeing of older adults in our state,” said Robert Cornwell, Executive Director, Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association.

The automated service, which is available 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, contacts participants each day within a one-hour window selected by them during sign-up. After confirming the caller is okay, it offers to connect the caller with the local Area Agency on Aging for information about services or assistance.

The program can also work as a safety net for participants. If a participant does not answer after three attempts, a call is placed to an alternate contact, if one is on file. After multiple failed attempts to reach the participant and the alternate contact, a call is placed to the non-emergency services line of the local sheriff’s office.

Eligible Ohio residents can learn more, or sign up, by visiting www.aging.ohio.gov/stayingconnected or calling 1-833-ODA-CHAT (1-833-632-2428).

For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

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