Programs offer help, hope to isolated senior citizens

U.S. & World

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) — Increasingly isolated and lacking support, senior citizens are continuing to struggle during the pandemic. 

Programs that provide outreach to this vulnerable age group are finding a demand for their service, and a lot of success.  

As the pandemic rages on, so does isolation for many seniors. 

A recent study from Johns Hopkins finds double the number of older Americans say they’re experiencing psychological distress compared to 2018.  

Part of that is loneliness, which can affect physical and mental health. 

“There’s a real impact on cognitive health, memory loss, mental sharpness, ability to do advanced thinking as well as depression and anxiety,” said Dr. Christina Prather with George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. 

The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences is working to combat social isolation, with a program that matches DC-area seniors and volunteers, all medical students, via phone. 

While they can connect callers with health services, the calls are meant to be conversational, not medical.  

“I remember talking to one senior who said something along the lines of it being too good to be true that this service exists,” said medical student Olivia Silva. 

The school plans to keep the program going post-pandemic, because it’s been so successful. 

“We need to build more bridges across generations and this is an opportunity to build bridges and give people a local grandparent,” said Dr. Prather. 

In Boston, outreach comes sealed and stamped. 

Two sisters have started the “Letters against Isolation” campaign, which has sent more than 18,000 pieces of mail. 

Lines of communication to help combat social isolation and loneliness.  

If you’re interested in volunteering or receiving services from one of these programs, here are some websites that can help:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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