The spirit of the season was with us during the recent Whittier Street Health Center Senior Holiday Event when many of our patients aged 55 and older joined us for a few hours of entertainment, raffle prizes, and of course great refreshments.
The holidays are the traditional time of year for celebration and togetherness, but they can be anything but celebratory for older adults who run the risk of social isolation. In fact, a study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine indicates that roughly one-fourth of adults in this country aged 65 or older are socially isolated. The reasons are many – the loss of a spouse and/or other loved ones, long-distanced family and friends, recent retirement from the workforce, medical issues that keep them housebound, hearing or vision problems that cause them to avoid gatherings, decreased energy and mobility levels, and neighborhoods that may have changed over time, leaving those well enough to remain in their own homes feeling lonely and disconnected from their communities.
And let’s not overlook the elephant in the room – COVID-19, a pandemic that galvanized social distancing, quarantine, and lockdowns. Now, nearly three years since the virus reared its ugly head, we see the negative impact it has had and continues to have on our senior population.
That’s why events like our Senior Holiday party are so important. Sure, we did some caroling, a little gift exchange, and indulged in a few goodies, but we also offered tips on combating isolation, and talked about issues surrounding mental health. In the near future we plan to host presentations with special speakers who will address these topics.
Yes, the holidays are joyous. But while we’re in the hustle and bustle of the season, let’s be sure to take the time to visit and support the seniors in our lives. It may be the best gift they receive all year.