It’s an exciting time to be aging! So many new technologies and services are emerging: from robots that help seniors communicate with family members who live across the country, to wearable devices that monitor health conditions. There have been great strides in improving the quality of life as we get older. But sadly, in the middle of all these innovative designs, isolation is one of the biggest threats to the health of America’s seniors. And, although this health risk is not often discussed, at least 25% of seniors over 65 are impacted. The devastating effects can be felt physically, mentally and emotionally. A study done by AARP revealed that social isolation is as detrimental to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Being isolated means you may be cut off from certain benefits and resources that you are eligible for, and that would greatly benefit you. If you can’t drive, you can’t get to the organizations that can help. Isolated seniors may not visit their doctor regularly or get to the grocery store as often as they’d like due to lack of transportation. Recent Medicare studies show that isolated seniors have an increased risk of high blood pressure, depression, dementia, malnutrition and other harmful health issues. Loneliness carries a higher overall risk of mortality for both men and women in their older years.
How can you help combat isolation? Reach out and ask — there are many wonderful organizations right here in Douglas County that serve the older community. Connect with your local senior center — there is one in Castle Rock and another in Parker that host a wide range of activities. If you need additional services or don’t know who can help with a specific issue, Aging Resources of Douglas County (ARDC) is a resource center that provides not only programs and services for seniors but also offers information on aging issues and referrals to other professional agencies. The mission of this nonprofit is to help seniors stay independent, in their homes, and engaged in living. Recently ARDC has partnered up with the nonprofit, SECOR Cares, to bring a mobile food market to the rural parts of the county. Rural outreach efforts also include providing education and information on aging issues, while meeting seniors where they are. Not everyone has access to get into the urban centers where most services are located. And with 82% of Douglas County being rural, this outreach has been very well received.
One of Aging Resources’ newest projects surrounding senior isolation has been to develop an inter-generational program that connects home bound seniors with elementary school classrooms. Teachers sign up to have their students receive a presentation on what it means to get older, and afterward, the children write letters and cards and send artwork to seniors throughout the school year. And the seniors are writing back and forming pen-pal bonds! Kelsey Thiessen, ARDC’s program manager, states, “Human connection is one of the most important services we provide. Having a friendly voice on the phone when you call our office for assistance and having the opportunity to form new friendships goes a long way to battling senior isolation.”
Sometimes, a friendly voice can make all the difference in the world. Many seniors live alone and can go days without talking to another person. This isolation can make you feel pretty lonely and depressed. Everybody needs the connections of a human voice, and these phone calls turn into friendships; something people look forward to.
Meet Karen, a Neighbor Network volunteer who comes in every week, to make calls to her new friends.
"I sure like it when Karen calls me. We visit about what's going on, and she always remembers to ask how my cat is doing," says Martha, an 86-year-old woman who lost her husband last year. "It gets so lonely and quiet here all by myself, and I am thankful for Karen.
If you are looking for ways to make a difference, consider volunteering! You may contact Aging Resources at 303-814-4300 for more information or visit www.AgingResourcesDougCo.org
Let's face it: We're getting older. Very soon one in four residents will be over the age of 60 here in Douglas County. And for the first time in human history, there will be more older adults than young children in the global population. Adults aged 65 and over will begin to outnumber children under the age of 5, according to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau.
What does it mean to be a senior in 2018? How do you navigate the many channels of aging, and how do you age successfully? When you ask, most older adults want to stay independent for as long as possible, remain in their homes, maintain social connections and enjoy the quality of life they've always had. New data suggests that for most seniors, quality of life is at the top of that list. But what about when that quality of life is challenged — maintaining independence can sometimes be difficult even in the healthiest of seniors.
Nationally, 6 million adults age 65 and older have a disability that prevents them from leaving their homes without help, and 51 percent of people age 75 and older live alone. Older adults who no longer drive can quickly become isolated. They make fewer trips to their doctors and the grocery store and can lose their social connections. Isolated seniors are at a higher risk of health issues, elder abuse, fraud and scams, according to the AARP Foundation.
As we age, living in our own homes can become more of a challenge, especially when health conditions prevent you from keeping up with yard work and maintenance. Even changing out a light bulb or smoke alarm batteries can be daunting when it involves a ladder and you've got mobility issues. HOAs want snow cleared from the sidewalk, and you're recovering from knee replacement surgery. But even with these challenges, the overwhelming majority of seniors say they wish to “age in place.” And living in your own home still might be the best option if you have some help.
What helps many seniors in our county is a connection to an aging resource center; a place to get and give information regarding the issues seniors are facing today and receiving help in navigating those issues. For Douglas County, this place is Aging Resources; a one-stop place to get information on services, links to providers and connections to resources, and to receive direct services, such as transportation, home maintenance and companionship. The organization receives hundreds of calls each week and has strong partnerships with aging professionals in the region. Just knowing there is a place to reach out to has made a significant impact on people's confidence level to remain in their homes and remain independent. Services help fill in the gaps many seniors are facing, and it's a peace of mind to know you have an available resource that specializes in senior services.