Social isolation is a prevalent concern for approximately one-quarter of community-dwelling Americans aged 65 and older who are considered to be socially isolated, and a significant proportion of adults in the United States report feeling lonely, according to a report conducted by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. And with the coronavirus pandemic altering people’s lives and the ways in which they interact with others, isolation among older adults is at an all-time high. Social isolation can affect everything from mental health, nutrition, and mobility.
There are many reasons for social isolation beyond the pandemic. Some older adults might not have family, might be estranged from their family, might not be as technologically savvy as younger folks, and might rely on transportation or Adult Day Health in order to socialize.
To address this issue, Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) launched the Social Engagement Program in June 2020, which was established to help improve the health and well-being of isolated older adults in the community by providing meaningful social connections.
The Social Engagement Program connects to older adults through supports that could include the following: the Telephone Reassurance Program, where a volunteer calls the isolated individual and provides a social contact and friendly conversation; the Card and Letter Writing option where participants and volunteers socialize through an exchange of cards and letters; the Email Pen Pal Program which provides socialization through email, and; the Friendly Visitor Program, in which the individual receives home visits that focus on in-person socialization and companionship(when it is determined safe to do so). Trained and carefully screened volunteers are paired with community members and provide the visits, cards and letters, calls and emails.
MVES continues to respond to the increased social isolation faced by many older adults during this difficult few years. Cheryl, a 61 year old, was struggling to recover from hip replacement surgery. She was feeling isolated and very stressed-out, and wanting a listening ear and friendly support. Cheryl was very worried about her adult African American son, the recent racial protests, and how her family may be impacted. She needed someone to talk with who would understand her reality and lived experiences. That’s where the Social Engagement Program came in to Cheryl’s life.
Cheryl was matched with a MVES Social Engagement volunteer who had shared experiences and could relate to Cheryl’s family experiences and feelings. It has been a very supportive match for Cheryl and made such a positive difference in her life. When Cheryl speaks of her volunteer, she shares “We’re buddies. We really talk and laugh. We talk about serious things too.” Cheryl enjoys their phone calls and is looking forward to days ahead when she can spend time in person with her Social Engagement Program volunteer.
The Social Engagement Program is not only benefitting Cheryl, but more than 50 other socially isolated older adults who have their own unique life challenges.
MVES is playing an important role in the community to combat the effects of social isolation. From increased well-being calls to ongoing home delivered meals and other in home services to providing resources for family caregivers now worrying about their elderly loved ones from afar, MVES is committed to remaining a consistent presence in the lives of those community members we are privileged to serve.
If you would like to learn more about the Social Engagement Program, please contact Linda Cornell at (781) 388-4839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.