It’s Time for a Conversation:
Loneliness Awareness Week is June 13-17
Loneliness is a health crisis that is often overlooked, especially in seniors, but it cannot be ignored. June 13-17, 2022, is Loneliness Awareness Week, which provides the opportunity to have a conversation about the dangerous health risks associated with loneliness and create meaningful opportunities for social connection.
Loneliness is Killing Us. Literally.
Loneliness has physical consequences that can be devastating. It eclipses obesity and even smoking for premature decline and even death. People who experience chronic loneliness have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and dementia. Research also suggests people who are lonely engage in more unhealthy behaviors such as poor diet, disrupted sleeping habits, and lack of physical activity.
Seniors are Among the Most Vulnerable for Loneliness
Loneliness doesn’t discriminate. It can affect people of every age, gender, and ethnicity, but seniors tend to be more vulnerable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are socially isolated, which is a direct pathway to loneliness.
Seniors often find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a spouse or partner, retirement, loss of mobility, and lack of transportation which puts them at a higher risk.
Meaningful Social Connection is the Cure
Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay is a local non-profit that helps seniors fight isolation through meaningful volunteer opportunities that provide purpose and social connection. They also offer services of support and companionship for isolated seniors who are at risk of loneliness. During the pandemic, these services became a crucial lifeline for many Tampa Bay seniors who couldn’t leave their home, and they continue to expand to reach even more seniors because the epidemic of social isolation continues. Here are some ways Seniors in Service is bringing the community together to prevent loneliness.
- Volunteer opportunities for social connection
Volunteering for a cause you care about provides the opportunity to meet like-minded people that can develop into lasting friendships. Seniors in Service has volunteer opportunities for individuals of all ages all throughout Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco County. You will benefit from joining a community of volunteers while your service will improve the lives of children, seniors, Veterans, and families.
- Intergenerational programs
One in five older adults face isolation, and depression rates among college students are 1.5 times higher than they were in 2019. These sound like two separate problems, but the solution to both can be found by bringing people of both generations together to support each other.
Seniors in Service engages college students as Health Buddies to provide telephone reassurance for seniors who are living with chronic conditions, which is a risk factor for loneliness. The college aged volunteers benefit from the social connection as much as the seniors they are serving. Sana Lulu is a University of South Tampa student, and she shared how being a Health Buddy has helped her overcome loneliness. “Just as much as the seniors are feeling lonely and isolated, I was feeling lonely and isolated. Sometimes my clients would call me, and it would make me feel special, because they were thinking of me. It made me feel really warm inside like I’m really doing something good.”
- Phone calls from a friend
A simple phone call from a friend on a regular basis can be the meaningful social connection a person needs to fight the devastating health risks of loneliness. Seniors in Service engages volunteers to serve as TelePals. They make regularly scheduled friendly calls that help reduce isolation for seniors. Participants are carefully matched based on interests and culture, building enduring relationships that help them both. Wayne is a senior in Tampa Bay who receives calls from a TelePal. He shared, “Actually I think my TelePal has saved my life, I think I have made a friend for life.”
- Senior Companions
Senior Companions provide friendship and support by visiting homebound elders on a regular basis. These volunteers ease loneliness and isolation and help seniors continue to live independently at home with dignity.
Join Seniors in Service in the fight against loneliness. Contact us today to become a volunteer or refer a senior who could benefit from services that provide social connection.