Social isolation occurs when a person has little to no contact with anyone else. In older adults, it can be harmful to their wellbeing and lead to a variety of serious health problems, including depression, cognitive decline and heart disease. With older New Yorkers asked to stay indoors due to COVID-19, they are at higher risk of becoming socially isolated.
The City Department for the Aging is working with its network of providers and City agencies to limit social isolation through multiple initiatives. They include virtual programs, regular wellness check-in phone calls, Friendly Visiting programs, and a PSA campaign, which includes a radio PSA by Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda.
In partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health, DFTA runs two volunteer programs that are designed to build friendships and limit social isolation. Called Friendly Visiting and Friendly VOICES, both programs train and match volunteers with older adults to connect on a weekly basis.
Friendly Visiting is for traditionally homebound older adults, who have ongoing health challenges that make it difficult for them to go out. Volunteers visit the older adult in their home to talk about shared interests and experiences, forming friendships in the process. Due to COVID-19, volunteers are currently maintaining social distancing guidelines and are connecting with their matches by phone and video calls.
The Friendly VOICES program is based on the Friendly Visiting model and is for older adults who are isolated for other reasons (such as COVID-19). Volunteers are matched with older adults and keep in touch with by calling them via phone or video calls. The older adult also has the option to join a virtual group or be matched with a peer close to their age.
If you would like to volunteer for either program, call Aging Connect at 212-244-6469, or fill out an online volunteer interest form. An older adult who wishes to join the program can also call Aging Connect at 212-244-6469 or click here to fill out the participant interest form.
For older New Yorkers: Health guidelines recommend that older New Yorkers stay at home and avoid large social gatherings, but there are different ways to stay connected.
DFTA network of providers are offering virtual programs over the phone and through video platforms like Zoom. Programs include fitness, art, and technology classes, and other creative programs. Call a senior center near you to learn what they offer. In addition, DFTA partner Older Adult Technology Services (OATS) offers free online classes every week through their website, senior planet.org.
If you would like to talk to someone about stress, depression, or anxiety, you can call NYC Well. Spearheaded by the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health, NYC Well offers free, confidential mental health support. You can speak to a counselor via phone, text or chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355).
For all New Yorkers: Take 10 minutes to call an older relative, neighbor and friend. Ten minutes can make a huge difference in the life of an older adult. You can also reach multiple older New Yorkers by creating your own “Quaranteam” to stay connected and keep the momentum going. It’s easy and fun to do.