Written by Allie Cooper
ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47)
Suffering from loneliness: It’s becoming a serious epidemic among seniors in the United States.
According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, chronic loneliness can be fatal. It can affect memory, physical well-being, mental health and overall life expectancy. The symptoms of loneliness vary, but it usually comes during a change in a person’s life. For example: retiring from a career and missing the social contact that came with it, health issues, or the death of a loved one can lead to isolation.
Statistics from Maryville University show that the population of US citizens aged 65 or older grew from 35 million in 2000 to nearly 50 million in 2016. There is an even larger jump predicted in the future – nearly doubling from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060. Socialization is critical, so if you have an elder family member or friend, simply just spend time with them.
In the Bessie’s Hope blog post on ‘The Importance of Intergenerational Programs’, it stressed how especially important it is for elders in nursing homes and assisted living facilities to interact with people, because they are greatly affected by their drastic change in lifestyle, loss of autonomy, and lack of family members and places to call home. Any form of social contact is vitally important.
This is the focus area for the Bessie’s Hope programs, shining a light on the forgotten segment of our society: nursing home elders. Over sixty percent receive no personal visitors, so if you would like to start off the new year by being a light for one or more of these special elders, contact Bessie’s Hope at 303-830-9037 or email@example.com. Whether it is you, your family, your workplace, your club, your church, your children’s school or scout troop – there are volunteer programs designed for you. Education, training, coordination with elder homes, facilitation of visits – all provided by Bessie’s Hope.
Here are other examples of how some places are showing care for the elderly:
Rider companion programs
The United Community Action Partnership’s rider companion program assists lone riders who need help getting home safely, making it to appointments and waiting until they end, or even waiting with them to catch their bus. Their Assisting Seniors on the Go program will offer discounted rates for seniors in the coming year. Willing volunteers just have to go through a brief registration and orientation process before they are matched with someone in need of help.
Get physical programs
In Wisconsin, where over half of the nation’s deadly falls among the elderly occur, the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging and Safe Communities Madison and Dane County has created the Stepping On program. This seven-week program helps the elderly prevent fatal falls by offering practical tips and exercise regimens. These classes also include home assessments and medication reviews, and give the elderly the confidence and support that they need to continue living healthy and independent lives. The program is now available in over twenty states, and statistics show that it’s reduced falls among the older population by thirty-one percent.
Spreading needed cheer
Come Christmastime where loneliness can really set in, Elves for Elders in Prince George aims to brighten up the holiday season for community elders by partnering with organizations to determine those most in need. Volunteers in this group spread Christmas cheer by acting as secret Santas who fulfill wish lists and also donate stockings filled with goodies. 274 seniors received gifts last year, and the numbers are expected to grow with every coming year thanks to generous donors and volunteers.
There are a number of ways you can take part in helping the elderly fight the epidemic of loneliness. You may get involved with any of these programs, find others, or create your own to show the beloved senior citizens in your area that you care – and that they matter.
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