Combating social isolation: ways to connect seniors with the community

Combating social isolation: ways to connect seniors with the community

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Social isolation and loneliness are serious health concerns for everyone, but especially for seniors and it’s even more worrisome during a pandemic.

But while staying at home and following social distancing guidelines, there are ways to connect with seniors.

WARM, Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, had to cut back on their usual work that they’re doing this time of year, but to make up for that loss, they’ve gone to pen and paper.

Volunteers are writing to homeowners, who are mostly elderly or disabled, to bring them that sense of connection.

“Folks who can’t necessarily get out of the house and volunteer, they can volunteer from their own home and just send a little note of encouragement to a homeowner who’s waiting for repairs,” said JC Lyle, the Executive Director of WARM. "Some of them been waiting for 18 months since hurricane Florence and Paul’s have really been able to send little notes for uplifting and encouraging and it means so much to the homeowners

Lyle says it’s important to make those stuck at home not feel isolated. Isolation can be really harmful to your health.

“With isolation being so detrimental to people’s health, our staff members are now focusing on kindness calls," said Lyle. "Every week, we call the homeowners who are still in waiting on repair services, we call them and check on them and see what they need and just give them a little bit of companionship for a few minutes.”

For instance, the program recently connected a teacher with a former student -- now the two are catching up after all these years.

“They look forward to the call all week long. Sometimes it’s the only person they talk to for days at a time. So they really look forward to those kindness calls. We stay in touch with our partners so if the homeowner tells us ya know, I need food delivery, we can refer them to the agency or if they need some health care then we can refer them to the right agency.”

Lyle says WARM is always looking for volunteers.

“We are still looking for individuals, families, anybody who really wants to volunteer from the safety of their own home,” said Lyle. "If they have cards at home or just a little note, we can send those to the homeowners who are still waiting for help and give them a little bit of encouragement right in the day.”

The New Hanover County Senior Resource Center is still doing their Phone Pals for Friendship and Foster Grandparent (FGP) programs.

“Our Foster Grandparent Program Volunteers began writing their students letters, which are turned into the school/teacher to review before any letters are sent to students,” said Amber Smith, the Director of the Senior Resource Center. “While these FGP volunteers will most likely not receive a letter back from a student, they have a sense for connection knowing they are giving words of encouragement to their students that they had been working with.”

Smith says along with providing meals and offering these programs, those working at the center have made thousands of phone calls to check in on seniors.

“We have personally called over 2500 participants to check on their welling being, assess their need for resources, and offer a friendly voice," said Smith.

The Senior Resource Center suspended all activities on March 16 due to COVID-19.

Smith says they are currently working on a plan to offer virtual activities like bingo, crafts, and exercises.

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