To combat loneliness in older adults – and everyone in between – the Medway Council on Aging and the Medway Parks and Recreation department is launching “Phone a Neighbor,” a program matching residents with those who want to receive a phone call every once in a while – or a few.
MEDWAY – Toilet paper, hand sanitizer and bread – those are just some of the essentials that everyone knows they need to stock up on as they shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic. But everyone also needs a little socialization – especially older Americans.
In fact, chronic loneliness can affect your health. According to one study published last year in “Perspectives on Psychological Science,” prolonged isolation can increase health risks comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having an alcohol use disorder. Older adults are also prone to suffer more severe illnesses from COVID-19, and have been urged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stay inside and avoid physical interaction with others.
To combat loneliness in older adults – and everyone in between – the Medway Council on Aging and the Medway Parks and Recreation department is launching “Phone a Neighbor,” a program matching residents (and non-residents) with those who want to receive an occasional phone call.
When staff at Medway’s Council on Aging call to check up on older residents every week or so, Director Courtney Riley said there’s always a positive response from those who pick up the phone.
“Every time (residents) do talk to someone, they always say, ‘It’s so great to hear from you, thank you for calling’ – they really do appreciate it,” she said. “Sometimes they stay on the phone just a little bit longer.”
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 2,000 residents in Medway are 60 years old or older, said Riley – and the senior center serves more than just those living in Medway. Last year, the center gave 2,000 rides to older residents and logged about 1,500 visits to the center, she said.
Parks and Recreation Director Julie Harrington said she approached Riley with the idea after seeing another town in California do it, and the pair said it’s also a great opportunity for kids and young adults to have a conversation with someone older, but said anyone of any age can sign up to receive the phone calls.
“It doesn’t even have to be if they’re lonely – it can just be someone who wants to make a new friend, make a new connection or hear some stories,” said Riley.
How often and when phone calls will be made depends on the preference of the person receiving the calls, they said, and non-Medway residents can also sign up to make or receive calls.
“It all depends on what the person needs – one week they may need one call, another week they might need three,” said Harrington.
The Council on Aging has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The closing included all day trips, social programs at the center, exercise classes and meals at the Oakland Café. For those who need to go to the grocery store or to a medical appointment, they can call the center at 508-533-3210. The “Phone a Neighbor” program does not include running those errands.