December is known as the Month of Giving not only because of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, but more importantly, it is the time of year when people make a difference by helping others, volunteering their time, or making charitable contributions. One significant way to make a difference is by giving your time to an isolated older adult.
In Buncombe County, 30% of older adults, age 65+, live alone. Social isolation is very detrimental to the health of older adults. Research suggests that social isolation and loneliness can have significant health impacts such as: a weakened immune system, higher levels of depression, anxiety, and dementia as well as increased risk of suicide and substance abuse. In addition, social isolation puts an individual more at risk for being a victim of abuse and/or exploitation. Studies suggest that the health risk of isolation is equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day! The holiday season can be a very lonely time for older adults and many in our community without any social support. Why not reach out to an older adult in your community and give them the gift of your time and let them know somebody cares? It may be the best present that both of you receive all year!
If you would like to give your time beyond the holiday season, consider volunteering for the Social Bridging Project. This project is a partnership between UNCA, North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness and Healthy Aging NC. The Social Bridging Project trains volunteers to call isolated older adults for social wellness checks, assistance with technology, and connection to resources. For more information, please click on Social Bridging Project - Healthy Aging NC.