The aging population has been particularly at risk since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted earlier this year. Natalie Mazzullo, University of Nevada, Reno Extension healthy-aging specialist, has been helping to create a safe and engaging environment for homebound seniors in Nevada.
Mazzullo serves as an action team member for the state’s Nevada COVID-19 Aging Network Rapid Response Team, known as Nevada CAN. She is a member of both the social service action team and the food and medication action team. Nevada CAN is focused on maintaining the quality of life for the 454,221 homebound elders in Nevada. Keeping elders safe from exposure to the virus, while ensuring they are well-supplied, have access to medical and social services, and remain free from isolation are the top priorities.
“I am honored to be part of the Nevada CAN action teams to assist Nevada’s elders with social engagement, and food and medication,” Mazzullo said. “As a result of Nevada CAN and the efforts of so many compassionate and caring professionals and volunteers, Nevada elders have had the opportunity to become connected with much-needed services.”
As part of the action teams’ response, Mazzullo helped to coordinate Extension’s support to provide information on where elders in need could access food in Nevada’s rural communities. In addition, Extension county educators helped to identify volunteers to assist with food delivery, including volunteers from Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program.
Year-round, Mazzullo and Extension’s healthy-aging team assist in the successful development of action plans that promote access and appeal around nutrition and physical activity that is uniquely tailored to the needs of communities where elders live and congregate. Since April, Extension’s healthy-aging team has worked to ensure that some of the most vulnerable and needy elders still have access to resources and activities to aid in their well-being, despite the ongoing pandemic. The team has:
- Produced a monthly newsletter that is sent to nearly 2,000 individuals
- Taught two nutrition series virtually
- Hosted virtual stretching classes twice a week
- In partnership with Extension’s garden nutrition and food systems team under the direction of Assistant Professor Aurora Buffington, offered virtual “Ask-the-Expert” classes focused on nutrition guidelines, garden nutrition, food safety and farmers markets; distributed more than 500 herb kits; and recorded a virtual-learning experience on how to grow your own herb garden.
Mazzullo also serves as the assistant director for the Sanford Center for Aging’s Nevada Geriatric Education Center at the University. In that capacity, she provides educational offerings for health professionals and eldercare partners. In October 2019, she was appointed by Gov. Steve Sisolak to the Governor’s Commission on Aging. The mission of the Commission is to facilitate and enhance the quality of life and services for all Nevada seniors in partnership with the Aging and Disability Services Division and other entities.
Mazzullo sits on various other committees, including the Aging and Disability Services Divisions’ Caregiver Conference Planning Committee and Three Square’s Senior Hunger Program Steering Committee. She also provides direct oversight for the Nevada Healthy Aging Alliance, currently focusing on SNAP-funded nutrition; physical activity; and policy, systems and environmental initiatives.