Elderly on Long Island seeking to age in place in their own homes might already be well aware of the challenges that the rest of us are learning to face right now. Limited accessibility and dwindling choices as we shelter-in-place becomes that much harder for older folks.
That’s where Umbrella, a company that started as a way to connect adults over 60 with part-time handymen and service providers to get the things they need done, is finding a new niche during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Umbrella launched a few years ago as a paid membership service that would contract workers for a variety of tasks that seniors couldn’t do themselves. But, with the impact of coronavirus, they are now focusing the platform they built to get senior citizens the groceries and necessities they need, in the most affordable way, while minimizing contact through a growing volunteer network.
"The support we have received from people on Long Island has been overwhelming, but we need more help to deliver for seniors,” said Umbrella CEO Lindsay Ullman in an email statement to LongIsland.com.
She is encouraging people to continue to sign up.
“And make sure the seniors of Long Island have everything they need while staying safely inside," she added.
On its website Umbrella says it is waiving their membership fee for urgent, essential tasks - charging only a $6 processing fee per order.
Volunteers can apply to help through a form on the Umbrella website. They encourage people to sign up only if they are not in a vulnerable age group, are healthy, have not been traveling, and have not had any signs of illness in the past 14 days.
"This is an easy way to make a big difference,” said Alex Meadows, a volunteer at Umbrella who said that it gives a sense of purpose to help during this time. “It's so important for all of us to help our neighbors and I hope people will sign up."
Usually, the service connects seniors with a local community of helpers (who they call “neighbors”) to perform work done around the house (odd jobs, small repairs, and chores) at an affordable rate.
On their website, Umbrella says that they switched gears as the coronavirus outbreak unfolded.
“We realized that one of the communities most impacted is the one we serve every day, so we have hit pause on our regular services, opened our platform up to everyone (waiving our membership fees), and are putting all of our energy into bringing together our communities in this extraordinary time.”
Umbrella user Lorraine DeRise said that the service has been invaluable to her and her husband.
"Umbrella has been a godsend,” she said. “My husband and I cannot leave the house at this moment and they have connected us with volunteers who bring our groceries to the door. Their help has been extraordinary!"