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Local InterestBY KARLA FALESCEO CareWell Services SWsong reads, “It’s the saddest experience you’ll ever know.” The song is remark- ably insightful – loneliness is tough. And it’s tough regardless of our age.Another risk factor for isolated seniors is elder abuse. What we findin working with seniors through the Calhoun County Elder Abuse Preven- tion Coalition is that loneliness and cognitive decline both play a role in in- creasing vulnerability among seniors to scams and other efforts to exploit them. Helping seniors remain engaged in ac- tivities and involved in their community can decrease the risk of exploitation.Research by the National Institutes of Aging stated it this way, “Human beings are social creatures. This need doesn’t diminish as we grow older.At all ages, our connections to others enable us to survive and thrive.” For older adults, isolation is one of the big- gest threats to health. It’s a health risk we often don’t discuss. Its devastating effects are felt physically, mentally, and emotionally. Yet as we age we are often alone more frequently than when we were younger. According to a report by the Administration on Aging, more than 25% of all older adults live alone and more than 45% of seniors report feeling lonely or isolated.loss of mobility and lack of transporta- tion are at an increased risk. Dr. Steve Cole of the UCLA Social Genomics Core Laboratory stated it this way, “Loneliness acts as a fertilizer for other diseases. The biology of lonelinessIn the recent Senior Needs Assess- ment conducted by CareWell Services, Calhoun County Senior Services, and Barry County Commission on Aging, just over half of respondents livedwith someone; however, more than 1/3 reported feeling depressed in the last 12 months. Conversely though, 80% of the respondents indicated they had family, friend, or neighbors with whom they interact. So being lonely isn’t just about being alone.In 2016, a national campaign was initiated by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, in collabora- tion with the AARP Foundation, aftera study showed that one in five people over age 50 reported feeling isolated. The campaign was a call to action for communities and for organizationslike ours. CareWell Services is an Area Agency on Aging that serves Calhoun and Barry counties that seeks to pro- mote health, independence, and choice for seniors, persons with disabilities, and caregivers. To this end, much of our work in the area of health and maintain- ing independence seeks to diminish the impact of isolation and loneliness.If you are an older adult, resolve to connect with others and remain con- nected in your community by volunteer- ing, visiting a senior center or calling a friend or neighbor for lunch or cards. If you frequently have feelings of loneli- ness, talk to your doctor as this may be a sign of depression, which can be treat- ed effectively. Don’t be afraid to make your needs and your feelings known to others.For seniors, the reason for the iso- lation and loneliness may be different from other age groups, but the costs associated with increased isolation are higher in terms of health and longevity. Numerous studies have linked isola- tion to higher risks of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, weakened immune system and even Alzheimer’s disease. Seniors who find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a partner or spouse, separa- tion from friends or family, retirement,Here are some examples: CareWell is actively engaged in the development and expansion of senior centers in both Barry and Calhoun counties. Senior centers are not only a place for seniors to interact and engage with other older adults, but also help connect seniors to other services that address health needs that may contribute to increased isola- tion. Another example of our work inOne doesn’t have to be the loneliest number. And isolation and loneliness don’t have to be an inevitable part of getting older. But it will take the power of one person to change this. That one person is mostly like you.The Power of One: Isolation and Loneliness Among SeniorsThree Dog Night recordeda catchy tune in 1968 called “One is the Loneliest Number.” It’s a simple little song about a break up. One line of thethis area is the Caregiver and Dementia Support Program. Caregivers are atan even higher risk for depression and feelings of isolation, yet it is also more challenging to engage socially as a care- giver. Programs like respite care and adult day care funded by our agency provide a break for caregivers to allow them to step away for brief periods of time to rest, work, volunteer, or care for their own health needs.can accelerate the buildup of plaquein arteries, help cancer cells grow and spread and promote inflammation in the brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Conversely, people who remain socially engaged tend to live longer, show improved mood, and have a sense of purpose.Do we envision a world where tech- nology has improved our connectivity; where opportunities abound for engage- ment; and where resources are readily available? Perhaps, but the reality is that combatting loneliness has one antidote: human connection. Here are some ideas to consider. Call on your senior neigh- bors. Invite them to dinner with your family. Take them to church or to run errands. Make eye contact with seniors, ask them to share part of their story with you. Call on your elder relatives who live out of the area. Volunteer at a nursing home, senior center, or assisted living.ANNUAL REPORT I SCENE 4407 27

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