(A regular phone call can make the world of difference for someone who is isolated. Consider helping a senior in your community with a weekly phone call | Photo courtesy of Council on Aging)
The Council on Aging of Central Oregon recently announced that the Central Oregon Health Council has awarded the agency $137,837 to support older adults at risk of isolation and loneliness through its new calling program connecting volunteers with seniors. The money will be used to expand the agency’s Caring Connections program to adults 60+ in Jefferson and Crook Counties.
Isolation and loneliness have long been recognized problems in the older adult population. More than one third of adults over age 45 report being lonely (Wilson & Moulton, 2010), equating to over 42 million older adults who experience chronic loneliness. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated an already difficult situation for our older adult neighbors, friends and family members who spent a lot of time this past year restricted to their homes.
“Social isolation is a key risk factor in aging populations,” said Susan Rotella, executive director of the Council on Aging. “The impacts can be devastating to both physical health and mental well-being and include depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and dementia. The Central Oregon Health Council’s funds will help us reach more at-risk older adults across Crook and Jefferson counties who can benefit from a friendly phone call with someone each week.”
Through the Caring Connections program, a simple weekly phone call can mean the world to seniors who do not have regular contact with friends or family. The program is designed to support seniors 60+ who may be living alone, have limited family support or limited connection with people on a day-to-day basis, offering isolated seniors a great way to make new friends and to have someone checking in on their wellbeing. These calls allow the Council to reach more frequently into the lives of older adults – through a trusted friend – so that we are able to learn if there are other needs beyond a check-in that should be addressed, such as needing a ride to a doctor’s appointment, addressing home safety repairs or not having enough or the right food to eat.
The Caring Connections program uses a robust software system called Mon Ami that allows us to measure the number, frequency and duration of client/volunteer calls. And, in partnership with the OHSU Community Research Hub, we will be conducting assessments to understand the impact of the weekly calls for active Caring Connection clients every 6 months. This evidence-based approach will give us a solid baseline to project actual reductions in loneliness and isolation.
To find out more about the Caring Connections program, call the Council on Aging of Central Oregon at 541-678-5483 or visit councilonaging.org/find-help/caring-connections.