Reducing loneliness, one Senior Friend at a time

Reducing loneliness, one Senior Friend at a time

Social isolation is a term we’ve all become familiar with over the last three years. While lifting COVID-19 restrictions on gathering together has opened doors for some, others struggle with isolation, particularly older adults. In May, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called attention to what he called the nation’s public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection. He emphasized the importance of social connection and community.

According to the Murthy, the health consequences of poor or insufficient connection include a 29 percent increased risk of heart disease, a 32 percent higher risk of stroke, and a 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia. Additionally, lacking social connection increases the risk of premature death by more than 60 percent, and social isolation contributes substantially to mental health challenges. 

MultiCare Celebrate Seniority, based in Puyallup, is helping address the issue of senior social isolation through its involvement with Senior Friends, a program of Lutheran Community Services Northwest. The program operated by LCSN, a non-profit social services agency that has several senior-oriented services, matches volunteers with lonely or socially isolated older adults throughout Pierce County.

Volunteers, also known as Friends, give their time to offer companionship to someone who otherwise may feel left out and alone. Friends provide opportunities to take walks, go for drives, and run errands, among other activities.

A Friends volunteer commits to 100 hours of service, with a weekly visit either in-person for two to four hours or a phone call to check in. Volunteers must be at least 21, pass a background check and interview, provide references, and be willing to take part in training.

Seniors looking to have a Friend visit them can complete an intake form. After the match of Friend and Senior is confirmed, they begin their regular visits. 

As a future participant shared, “The opportunity to have someone come and visit me or call will make a world of difference. Since my car was stolen and I can’t afford a replacement, I must use a rideshare company to get to the doctor or anywhere. Having someone who might be willing to take me would be a blessing.”

More information is available from Senior Friends at 253-722-5682 or Celebrate Seniority at 253-697-3005.