February 11th is National Shut-In Visitation Day, and a good opportunity to consider the experiences of isolated individuals. Physical, mental, and/or emotional barriers increase the risk of isolation and loneliness, which are common in the elder community. Elders experience isolation and loneliness for several reasons; shrinking social networks, reduced mobility, health issues, a partner’s death, fear of injury outside of the home, among others.
The risks are great for elders living in isolation. A study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) found that 18 percent of seniors live alone, while 43% report they often feel lonely. The same study found that elders who reported feeling lonely saw a 45% increase in their risk for death, and isolated elders had a 59% greater risk of mental and physical decline than their more social counterparts. In Denver, close to one-third of its 69,000 residents 65 and better are at risk of isolation.
Luckily, several resources are available in Denver for isolated elders. Here are six organizations to consider if you or an elder you know is in need of connections and support:
- SAGE Friendly Visitor Program – The SAGE Friendly Visitor Program provides weekly visits to GLBT elders (50+) residing in care centers and independent or assisted living communities who may need friendship, companionship, and support. If you or someone you know can benefit from a volunteer friendly visitor, please complete this information form.
- A Little Help – Volunteers help elders with everyday activities such as transportation, medical note-taking, pet care, yard work, technology help, check-in calls or visits, or light housework. For additional services such as repairs, home cleaning, meal delivery, and home health care, A Little Help can refer elders to recommended local providers. A Little Help also provides several intergenerational social programs and educational events. Visit their website to apply to become a member.
- Meals on Wheels – Homebound elders 60 and better are eligible to receive Meals on Wheels. The program also provides nutritional educational and assistance accessing other services available for homebound elders. Friendly volunteers deliver all meals, and it can make a huge difference for an isolated individual to receive daily visits and someone asking “How are you doing?” To determine if you or someone you know is eligible call 303-294-0111.
- The Gathering Place – The Gathering Place is a day shelter for women, children, and transgender individuals, welcoming anyone from that group to visit daily and use their services. They provide two meals a day and plenty of communal areas where individuals can come and socialize. The Gathering Place is open M,W,Th,F from 8:30am-5:00pm, T 8:30am-1:30pm.
- Congregate Dining Centers – Volunteers of America provides several Dining Centers in Denver, available to anyone 60 and better. Each center provides nutritious meals, access to community resources, and a place for elders to visit with their peers. Visit their website for a list of Dining Center locations.
- Capitol Hill Care Link – Here at Capitol Hill Care Link we provide many social events for elders, including Lunch and Learns, Silver Sneakers classes, lecture series, and coffee groups. Check our calendar of events to find dates, times, and additional information.