New senior outreach worker embraces challenges
Published 9:26 am, Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Bethany Zaro wants New Canaan to make it more desirable for aging residents to remain in town.
“Our seniors are a very important part of the town,” Zaro said.
Over the past two years, Zaro has helped run the New Canaan Department of Health & Human Service’s gradually expanding Telehealth pilot. In the program, senior citizens use Fit-bits, smart phones or tablets to catalog and transmit health information to town health department workers.
The shared vital signs such as heart rate, exercise, weight, and blood pressure among the seniors are usually discussed by video chat or in person at least once a month, Zaro said. The program holds promise in helping address the needs of the senior population if it were to be made a permanent program.
“It’s really cutting edge technology,” Zaro said. “… It’s what public health is becoming, particularly senior health where you are looking at it from a wellness perspective.”
Zaro, who has been with the town part-time since 2007, whis week became the new full-time senior outreach worker in the Department of Health and Human Services, taking over the role of working with older adults in town from Melba Neville, who retired last month. In the past eight years she has also been emergency response coordinator for the department, a job that focuses significant attention on the needs of seniors during storms and other crises.
“I’m an advocate, and an advocate for the senior population,” said Zaro, 55, who lives in town. “I look at it as I’m connecting services to people based on what their needs are.”
New Canaan has roughly 3,300 people over age 65, a figure that is expected to grow to more than 4,000 by 2020, Zaro said.
In the coming year, Zaro said she hopes to be able to spend time assessing the needs of senior citizens and raise awareness about available assistance such as Medicare gap insurance programs, transportation, and fuel assistance programs that can help town seniors living on fixed budgets.
“There are many programs that can help them maintain the comforts they have,” Zaro said. “I also want to build up my knowledge base about programs that may be available to them.”
Zaro will continue in her role of public health nurse, which includes interacting with the state Department of Health to monitor infectious diseases including Lyme disease and West Nile virus, and running the town’s flu and other clinics.
“She comes with many capabilities because she has been aware of many of the seniors through the Telehealth program and health and human services,” Dunn said. “She’s also a very kind, very positive carrying person and perfect for the position.”
Zaro was integral to town efforts to establish readiness plans to dispense medication in response to infections, including a prolonged effort last year to ensure the town was ready to handle a case of the Ebola virus, Town Emergency Response Coordinator Michael Handler said.
“Bethany is an extremely capable and professional individual and a pleasure to work with,” Handler said. “She’s been instrumental in helping craft the town’s response to public health emergencies, and has a wealth of knowledge. Her dedication is impressive.”
Seniors can contact Zaro at the Department of Health and Human Services at 203-594-3093.