Reaching out to seniors during the pandemic

Building bridges across generations
A recurring recording of Local4 News at 11:30 a.m. Monday - Friday.
Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 12:48 PM CDT
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Increasingly isolated and lacking support, senior citizens are continuing to struggle during the pandemic. As the pandemic rages on, so does isolation for many seniors.

A recent study from Johns Hopkins finds double the number of older Americans say they’re experiencing psychological distress compared to 2018.

Part of that is loneliness, which can affect physical and mental health. That’s the opinion of Dr. Christina Prather of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

"There's a real impact on cognitive health, memory loss, mental sharpness, ability to do advanced thinking as well as depression and anxiety," said Dr. Prather.

“(It’s) too good to be true that this service exists.”

Olivia Silva, medical student

The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences is working to combat social isolation with a program that matches D.C. area seniors and volunteers- all medical students- via phone.

While they can connect callers with health services, the calls are meant to be conversational, not medical.

"I remember talking to one senior who said something along the lines of it being too good to be true that this service exists," said medical student Olivia Silva.

Special connections have been so successful, the school plans to keep the program going post-pandemic.

"We need to build more bridges across generations and this is an opportunity to build bridges and give people a local grandparent," said Dr. Prather.

In Boston, outreach comes sealed and stamped. The “Letters Against Isolation” campaign- started by two sisters- has sent more than 18-thousand pieces of mail.

According to Saffron Patel, one of the founders of Letters Against Isolation, "It's just so lovely to have this community during this lonely time."

Lines of communication, helping combat social isolation and loneliness.

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