KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Even before the coronavirus crisis prompted calls for social distancing, one in four older adults was affected by social isolation.
But now, millions of older adults are left with limited or no social interaction.
The Kingston Active Adult Center helps keep seniors healthy, active and independent. With centers like this closed and more seniors becoming shut-ins, it threatens their physical and mental well-being.
Empty senior centers are a sign of the social isolation many older Americans face during these uncertain times. The closures contribute to a problem all too many seniors already face.
“Well, you know Mark, when we think about it we think about the rise of social isolation and Pennsylvania in terms of an aging population ranks eighth and over one million Pennsylvanians are at risk of loneliness today,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of the AARP Foundation.
That risk can take a terrible toll according to the AARP Foundation.
“Prolonged isolation is the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” said Ryerson.
COVID-19 coupled with social isolation means that vulnerable seniors face two risk factors coinciding. Ryerson recommends one way to avoid social disconnection while social distancing is to take what she calls a friend-ventory.
“Sit down and remember the names and contact information for former colleagues or co-workers, individuals who you attended school with and reach out first.”
Seniors can make a phone call, have a video chat or even send an email to set a date for a virtual coffee hour together. Ryerson also recommends contacting community organizations that help seniors meet their needs.
“Whether that’s meal delivery or volunteer services that are offering grocery delivery during this time. But Mark, equally important is for us to check in on our loved ones daily to contact five older adults each and every day during this virus and hopefully beyond.”
AARP Foundation has a digital platform called connect2affect.org which features vital information on social isolation and tips to remain connected during the coronavirus crisis.