Page 3 - Senior Times South Central Michigan February 2021 - 28-02
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 By: Helen Guzzo, LMSW, Manager, Calhoun County Senior Services
interactions. Without the structure of work, con- sider how you will meet new people and engage regularly with others.
Developing and maintaining meaningful personal relationships prevents loneliness. As older adults retire, they need to think about ways to increase their social capital, their close relationships with others.
loneliness in older age. Interventions to help reduce loneliness and social isolation include services to support and maintain existing rela- tionships, and to foster new connections with people along with helping people to change their thinking about their social connections. There is stigma and shame in admitting that one is lone- ly. Programs need to be open to all and lead by older adults.
Ideas for staying active and reducing lone- liness is to try something new, start a conver- sation with a stranger, volunteer, or write a letter to a young person or old friend.
Calhoun County Senior Millage funds ser- vices for older adults, age 60 and over. The spending of Senior Millage funds is directed by
a 13-member volunteer group called the Senior Millage Allocation Committee (SMAC), chaired by County Commissioner Gary Tompkins. SMAC members are looking at social isolation and loneliness among older adults to figure out how we should use Senior Millage funding and staff to increase efforts to reduce the effects of these situations. This article on loneliness and social isolation is based on the work and research of Maureen Mickus, a professor and expert in gerontology at Western Michigan University. Her work to educate the committee is appreciated.
Socially isolated people have a higher risk for loneliness and depression. It is not easy to pre- dict who will be lonely while living alone, some people are lonely in a crowd of people and some are content being alone. In 2021, the proportion of people who live alone is increasing. As people age, their likelihood of living alone increases. Nationally, over 40% of people, age 89 and over, live alone. This has increased from under 10% in the late 1930s.
COVID safety precautions make strengthen- ing social connections difficult because of the restrictions on gathering, going to coffee or a drink together at a restaurant, and even being able share a smile because of having to wear a mask.
Loneliness has been defined as an excruci- ating painful emotion evoked by the realization of a lack of meaningful contact with others, or a discrepancy between desired and actual contact with others.
There is a loss of social connections in our society. A 1985 study showed that 10% of Americans lack a close confidant, and a similar study in 2016 showed that approximately 25% of adults now have no close confidant or friend.
There is a relationship between loneliness
and depression, but they are not the same thing. Loneliness is a precursor for depression. The combination of depression and loneliness occur- ring together increase the risk of premature death. The risk of premature death because of depression and loneliness together is a risk even when controlled for gender, marital status, living arrangements, and presence of chronic disease. Depression combined with feelings of loneliness, along with the barriers of physical limitations that aging sometimes brings, can lead to neglect of self-care, poor diet, and low medication com- pliance, all factors that can lead to early death, increased confusion, and worsening health condi- tions like heart disease.
Loneliness is not solely a problem experience by older adults, a large 2016 study of college stu- dents showed that 30% felt “very lonely” in the past two weeks. Another study showed that 35% of adults age 45 and over are lonely.
As the COVID pandemic continues, it remains important to call people that you know who live alone regularly and for older adults to learn how to use their cell phones and devices for video conferencing. In Calhoun and Barry counties, CareWell Services SW offers a tele- phone reassurance program; call (269) 966-2450 to sign up. The State of Michigan has also made online classes available through www.getsetup. io/michigan, or by calling 888-559-1614.
Social isolation is related but different than loneliness. Social isolation is the absence or only having a small number of meaningful human relationships.
The risk factors for loneliness increase with advanced age, loss of life partners through death or divorce, and older women are more likely
to say they feel lonely than men. Poor health, reduced mobility, and cognitive impairment increase an older person’s chances of being lone- ly. People less likely to experience loneliness
are those who are married, more educated, or Hispanic.
COVID vaccines are coming and we will
be able to safely gather again soon. Stay safe. Once the COVID vaccine becomes more readily available, Calhoun County residents, age 65 and older, can call (269) 441-912 to sign up for an appointment to get vaccinated.
Work gives people many connections and
England has started a nationwide Campaign to End Loneliness to tackle the health threat of
Helen Guzzo, LMSW, is the Manager of Calhoun County Senior Services, which funds a variety of services for residents age 60 and over with Senior Millage tax dollars. To learn more, call 269-781-0846
Got Medicaid and Medicare?
You could get more.
Additional benefits may include: Health Products Card
Personal Emergency Response System
Dental Coverage Vision Coverage
Call today to enroll or get answers to your questions.
1-877-485-5531, TTY 711
8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, 7 days a week
UHCCP.com/MIdual
Rhonda Stanton
Licensed Agent
(269) 501-5616
Senior Times - February 2021 Page 3
REACH OUT TO OTHERS TO REDUCE LONELINESS AND SOCIAL ISOLATION
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a contract with the State Medicaid Program. Enrollment in the plan depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.
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