Area Agency on Aging: Are you aging and feeling lonely?

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By Kay Kaylor

PREVIEW Columnist

I advocate for residents in extended care and assisted living residences as the region’s lead long-term care ombudsman. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor, all as an employee of San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). The many aging and care concerns will be addressed here.

The media lately has reported on the public health issues of social isolation and loneliness, which the pandemic has compounded by the need for older adults and people with disabilities to stay at home as much as possible. Already a problem for between one-fourth and one-half of people older than age 60, social isolation and loneliness these days are especially of concern for those living in nursing and other group homes, caregivers, those who do not have Internet access, and anyone who experiences limited or no family or other visitors. 

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) website (acl.gov) notes that research indicates harmful health outcomes from isolation and loneliness, such as increased risk for hospitalizations, dementia, heart failure and strokes. 

In one effort to solve the problem, in addition to regular ACL webinars and resources, the ACL and other agencies created a Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness and social isolation (MENTAL) Health Innovation Challenge, with phases scheduled for the next four months.

The Institute on Aging’s national Friendship Line, (800) 971-0016, offers 24-hour toll-free support for people age 60 and older and adults living with disabilities. On the line, trained volunteers offer to converse with those who are isolated, depressed, anxious or bereaved. Begun in 1973, the Friendship services include emotional and grief support, regular outreach and well-being calls, elder abuse reporting, active suicide intervention, and information and referrals.

If you are an isolated older adult and feeling the need to talk locally, in addition to using crisis lines, feel free to call the number below. 

SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call or text 403-2165 or send an email to leadombudsman@sjbaaa.org.