Combating Social Isolation Among Seniors: Friendly Visitors
Social isolation among seniors has become a hot topic, as well it should. According to the AARP Foundation, nearly 1 in 5 Americans 65 and older are socially isolated. This occurs when people withdraw and become disconnected from family, friends, and community. What is most alarming, is the detrimental health effects isolation can have on our aging population. A study conducted by Brigham Young University found that prolonged social isolation is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The study also contends isolation has been linked to higher blood pressure, heart disease, a weakened immune system, and early onset of dementia.
One of the more effective ways to combat social isolation among seniors is weekly visits from a caring and compassionate volunteer, like the Friendly Visitor program offered through the New Day Senior Services at The Center for Youth and Family Solutions. In this program, volunteers are matched with a senior who is in need of social interaction. The Friendly Visitor volunteer may provide a variety of activities with seniors, from having regular visits, taking walks, working puzzles together, going shopping, or providing transportation to medical appointments. The schedule and activities are very flexible, and completely up to the interest of the volunteer.
According to Ruth Urbanc, New Day Senior Services Program Coordinator, “what makes this program so powerful is that both the senior and volunteer benefit. True friendships develop over time which is a blessing to both.”
For many Friendly Visitors, the act of volunteering provides personal fulfillment. Says Friendly Visitor Jim Cassulo, “For me, volunteering is a way to give back. I’ve had success in my life and this gives me the chance to help people who are really in need.”
Besides a sense of personal fulfillment volunteering provides, a new body of research shows the very act of volunteering itself has profound health benefits. The Corporation for National and Community Service found people who volunteer on a regular basis feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression.
In the greater Peoria community, the need for Friendly Visitors is great. “We get calls every week requesting our Friendly Visitor services. In order to meet these needs, we simply need more volunteers,” reports Urbanc.
If you or someone you know would like to become a Friendly Visitor Volunteer, contact The Center for Youth and Family Solutions Volunteer Coordinator, Sue Hirschman at (309) 323-6632 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Worried Someone, You Know is Suffering in Silence? According to the AARP Foundation, here are the Signs to Look for with Social Isolation
- Deep boredom, general lack of interest and withdrawal
- Losing interest in personal hygiene
- Poor eating and nutrition
- Significant disrepair, clutter, and hoarding in the home