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Grantee Spotlight: Older Adults and Social Isolation

Grantee Spotlight: Older Adults and Social Isolation

 

Grantee Spotlight: Older Adults and Social Isolation

By Williamsburg Health Foundation 

In May 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued an advisory  addressing the profound health impacts of social isolation and loneliness. This report underscored severe health risks, such as a reduced lifespan and an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression, and dementia. Termed the “loneliness epidemic,” this problem affects individuals across all ages and demographics but can have a particularly negative impact on older adults. A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Consensus Study Report reported that almost one-quarter of older adults aged 65 and above, living independently, experience social isolation. The Surgeon General’s report notes the cost of the health effects related to social isolation in older adults accounts for almost $7 billion of Medicare spending each year. 

 

Community Partners Addressing Isolation   

The 2022 Sentara Community Health Needs Assessment revealed that in 2020, nearly 23% of people living in the Greater Williamsburg area and surrounding localities was over 65, with growth projected to more than 26% by 2030. With such a substantial segment of our community classified as older adults, the Williamsburg Health Foundation is grateful for the many community agencies working daily to address isolation in older adults, including but not limited to the following organizations: 

 

The Peninsula Agency on Aging’s (PAA) mission is to advocate for policies and distribute resources to enhance the quality of life for older adults and family caregivers. PAA fulfills this commitment by offering in-home care, home-delivered meals, dining clubs, and transportation. These valuable services help older adults foster a sense of social connection while providing access to community resources. 

 

The R.F. Wilkinson Family YMCA has offered programs aimed at building a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all in the Greater Williamsburg area since 2007. Their Active Older Adults program focuses on providing older adults with opportunities to remain socially active and healthy. Through social activities, fitness, and volunteer programs, the YMCA keeps older adults active and engaged, reduces social isolation, and boosts the quality of life for older members of our community.  

 

Williamsburg Faith in Action (WFIA) unites transportation and volunteer support services for older adults in Greater Williamsburg. WFIA aids with transportation, shopping, caregiver support, and household chores. Wendy Satchell, WFIA’s Executive Director, recounted a story of a homebound WFIA care receiver who had been the primary caregiver for her husband until his recent passing. When a WFIA volunteer arrived to deliver her mail, she was overjoyed with the opportunity for conversation. Since her late husband’s care team no longer visited, she felt lonely and disconnected. Today, WFIA volunteers make regular visits and phone calls, providing companionship and connection. 

 

We All Have a Role to Play  

Like these organizations and many others working to increase social interaction and combat isolation among older adults in the Greater Williamsburg area, we as community members can make a difference. We can start by reaching out to check on the older adults in our lives and in our neighborhoods. Together, we can make progress in reducing social isolation in our community.