By Eric Gonzalez ~
Social interaction is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle. However, we get less and less social interaction as we grow older. This problem is only exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic, with stay at home and safer at home orders forcing many older adults to remain homebound. It’s no wonder that many of them are suffering the effects of social isolation. This is why we at Benefits in Action (BIA) launched our new Connectedness program.
The premise behind the Connectedness program is simple. We provide a vital lifeline to the outside world for seniors who are socially isolated. Our lifeline takes the form of a crucial phone call to isolated older adults to see how they are doing. Through these phone calls, we learn about older adults mental and physical well-being, their lives in general, and services we can provide to them throughout these difficult times.
The program has proven enormously successful. We have contacted over 400 unique individuals through the program, using staff and volunteers to make the phone calls. We plan on calling the over 7,000 individuals we have served in the past four years and plan on making the program a permanent part of BIA. These individuals come from all walks of life but share one thing in common. They are suffering from the effects of isolation and loneliness.
These phone calls have resulted in a variety of great stories. We had a call with a gentleman that couldn’t pay his rent because he was laid off from both of his jobs. We gave him rental assistance options that enabled him to work out a payment plan with his landlord. We also referred him to Spark the Change and got him in touch with a therapist. Things are looking better for him as a result of our Connectedness calls.
So how does the Connectedness program work? It works through referrals and our ability to check in with folks we previously served. We call folks on a weekly basis, ask them if they need anything, if they can access food, if they have anything on their mind, if they are entertained, and if they have any other needs we can address. The same person calls each week in order to build a solid relationship of trust with the individual. This way, we assess where an individual is in life, help them connect to the outside world, and refer them to other BIA counselors for further assistance as appropriate.
So why is our Connectedness program so important? It’s simple. Social interaction has long-term positive mental and physical health benefits. The mental benefits include a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, as well as a reduced chance of suffering from depression. The physical benefits include reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, arthritis, or cardiovascular problems, and even certain types of cancer.
For those of you that already know something about BIA, our Connectedness program may come as a bit of a surprise. Normally, when you think of BIA, you think of health benefit navigation services. However, our mission at BIA is not only to provide health benefit navigation services, but to provide a holistic one-on-one experience to help individuals live healthier more meaningful lives. It is with this mission in mind that we created our Connectedness program.
If you want someone to talk to, whether it’s to share your life story or just a friend to check in on you every week, then we are eager to help you out. For more information on our Connectedness program or to sign up to receive connectedness calls, call 720-221-8354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.