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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.

Grantee Spotlight: Enhancing Mobility with F.R.E.E.

Grantee Spotlight: Enhancing Mobility with F.R.E.E.

Grantee Spotlight: Enhancing Mobility with F.R.E.E.


WHF Staff

As the weather warms and flowers bloom, Williamsburg area residents look forward to putting their coats away and heading outside to enjoy the beauty spring brings. However, for individuals experiencing mobility challenges due to health conditions or recent surgeries, navigating both indoors and outdoors can be challenging. The Foundation for Rehabilitation Equipment & Endowment (F.R.E.E.), a non-profit organization in Virginia, addresses mobility-related barriers by increasing access to mobility aids for those who qualify.

Between July 2022 and June 2023, the Williamsburg office of F.R.E.E. located in Sentara Circle provided 670 pieces of mobility equipment to 410 individuals in Greater Williamsburg. F.R.E.E. aims to ensure low-income uninsured or underinsured adults in Virginia have access to equipment that facilitates independence and maximizes quality of life by collecting, sanitizing, and distributing donated aids, such as wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and specialized equipment.

As spring brings more outdoor opportunities to the Greater Williamsburg area, we are grateful for the efforts of our partners at F.R.E.E. Their work enables our community to be a more accessible place for residents with mobility restrictions and aligns with the Williamsburg Health Foundation’s vision of individuals making healthy choices in a community with health opportunities for all. See to learn more about F.R.E.E.

The Williamsburg Health Foundation (WHF) is a non-profit private legacy health foundation with the mission to collaborate, innovate, and invest to impact systems that improve the health and well-being of individuals living in Greater Williamsburg. The Foundation was established in 1996 when the Williamsburg Community Hospital and Sentara formed a merger that included a provision for a new, locally organized, and managed Foundation to benefit community health. Since inception, WHF has awarded over $106 M in grants to improve community health and well-being.

A Full Plate: Reflecting on the Community’s Role in Nourishing Our Neighbors 

A Full Plate: Reflecting on the Community’s Role in Nourishing Our Neighbors 

By: Deb Fisher

Growing up in a family that watched every penny, my mother’s arrival with bags full of groceries from one of our local churches was always a reason for celebration for my five siblings and me. I remember our excitement while helping our mother put the food away and our anticipation of trying new, mysterious treats that our parents would not usually buy. These bags, filled with new foods, brought a sense of excitement to our dinner table.  

It was not until I matured that I began to understand that the food my mom brought home was from a community food pantry and that we were a family who needed assistance. Despite our limited means, my family of eight never experienced the pangs of hunger thanks to the generosity of our neighbors and programs designed to help keep families fed when faced with challenging times.  


Now, as a Communications Specialist for the Williamsburg Health Foundation, I am honored to be part of an organization supporting local organizations that work to address the same food insecurity issues that touched my family. I have had eye-opening conversations with those at the helm of food pantries in the Greater Williamsburg area about our community’s growing needs. Declines in personal and grocery store contributions forced some pantries to dip into their emergency funds so families in Greater Williamsburg have access to nutritious food.  


The Williamsburg Health Foundation continues to respond to this critical need. Reflecting our commitment to the health and well-being of this community, the Foundation recently awarded a total of $100,000 — $20,000 each to five local sites — FISH, Grove Christian Outreach Center, The Salvation Army, Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, and Williamsburg House of Mercy.  


This is deeply personal. Thinking of our community members receiving help – I reflect on my family who sometimes chose between a meal and a medical bill, rent, or a utility payment. Staff and volunteers of these agencies, and this funding, help ensure families have a lifeline and will not have to make difficult choices alone.