Loneliness, Isolation & AgingMarch 2, 2020
On a recent episode of Caregiver Crossing the Podcast, we sat down with Lauren Guynn, Executive Director of the Shepherd’s Center of Hamilton County, to chat about the wonderful programming and services they offer to Seniors in their community. Not only are their programs free to anyone 55+ living in Hamilton County, but they include programs like “Together Today,” which provides an excellent opportunity for older adults to get together on a regular basis, make new friends, and socialize in a fun and informal environment. An important benefit of this program is that the participants develop a very caring attitude toward each other and look out for each other’s welfare.
Lauren talked about the type of caring community that develops within the groups: “It’s a safe space to meet people that are also in that life stage. The volunteers dedicated to running the program focus specifically on the well-being of the group overall.” Lauren talks about the volunteer group leaders reaching out with help requests for individuals that may be going through something such as a surgery or death in the family. They then rally together to provide meals, yard work, transportation…whatever may be needed to support that person.
The ultimate goal of this program is to prevent isolation. Isolation and loneliness are one of the biggest risks for the aging community, and organizations like Joy’s House and the Shepherd’s Center of Hamilton County are working to make sure that adults in this season of life feel seen, heard and loved.
Aging populations are at a greater risk due to factors like the loss of a spouse or partner, health diagnoses, changes in access to transportation, changes in mobility and retirement or inability to work.
Numerous studies have shown the toll on physical health and psychological well-being that social isolation, loneliness, and lack of support can have on the aging population. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, obesity, a weakened immune system, heart disease, cognitive decline, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Conversely, people who engage in meaningful, productive activities with others tend to live longer, boost their mood, and have a sense of purpose. These activities seem to help maintain their well-being and may improve their cognitive function.
We encourage caregivers, family members, or the aging individual themselves to look for the signs of loneliness and its effects, and to reach out to organizations like Joy’s House and the Shepherd’s Center of Hamilton County to find the resources and the community that will meet you where you are and enhance the quality of your life in this beautiful season of life.