Our People

Greetings Fam! I was thinking this morning about how much COVID has brought to light. There are obvious things like “I should have a larger savings account!” or “Where is that thermometer?” or “What DO we do if we run out of toilet paper?” But, the illumination I am currently speaking of is about our aging population. 

COVID has shown us that many of our elderly neighbors, friends, and family are in extremely vulnerable situations. If certain agencies are closed, who is going to care for the people who rely on those agencies? During the quarantine in 2020, many services could not provide the services many seniors depend on. Since that time, things have gotten better with most medical services. However, our seniors need something else: companionship!

Companionship and human interaction are just as important for senior citizens as medical interventions. Socialization, planning activities, having events to look forward to and having meaningful interactions are often overlooked when we discuss basic needs. People need people. Even when we think we do not. The elderly population is less likely to text, email, and participate in social media. Therefore, they are left out of the social loop and are prone to isolation and loneliness.

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, which may rival smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. (1)

Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia. (1)

Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke. (1)

Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly four times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

This is a call to action. We can do many things to assist the elderly, both in our own families and in our neighborhoods and local assisted living facilities.

Here are a few agencies doing great things….get involved!

Love for our Elders pairs seniors with pen pals!

AARP has rounded up resources for the aging.

Meals on Wheels provides meals to seniors unable to drive.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 
https://doi.org/10.17226/25663external icon

Dr. Kimberly VanBuren

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