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Helping Seniors Stay Connected while Living at Home

Author: Nancy Allegrezza

If you said in your own home, you are among the majority. Many older adults desire to remain at home throughout their lifespan. Home is where you feel comfortable. Each room is filled with memories of life over the years. It's not just a house - it's your house.

While the idea of aging in your own home feels more comfortable and peaceful for most people, it is not without risk.

One of the most pressing concerns regarding quality of life for older adults is social isolation. While not a physical disease, isolation and loneliness should not to be taken lightly. "Loneliness acts as a fertilizer for other diseases,"(1) says Dr. Steve Cole, director of the Social Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In fact, a recent scientific review, "Perspectives on Psychological Science", showed that social isolation is a stronger predictor of death than lack of exercise, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Social isolation can result in depression and a decline in overall physical health and wellbeing.

The good news is that there are people working to combat the isolation and help seniors stay in their homes longer. Borne out of a desire to assist home-bound seniors and their caregivers by providing supportive services, Vanguard Medical Group of Verona, NJ launched Connections at Home in 2014.

The mission of Connections at Home is to use technology to help decrease social isolation among the elderly and help clients and their families strengthen ties and stay connected. Currently, the program director and 4 social workers serve 265 seniors in their local community.

One of the initiatives started at Connections at Home was to utilize senior friendly technology to help home-bound seniors connect with their staff, families, and friends.

Approximately 100 seniors have a Telikin computer which was designed especially for seniors, or a senior friendly tablet issued to them. These seniors participate in biweekly face to face video chat calls with the social workers. Participants can also communicate with family, other participants and friends via email, video chat, enjoy photo sharing, social media and many other computer programs.

Staff members also connect clients to community resources to broaden the safety net for the home-bound seniors and their caregivers. These calls are to ensure their health care needs are being met and coordinated appropriately.

Data collected from October 2014 up through September of 2017 concluded 69% of their participants showed improvement in the Social Isolation Scale and 57% experienced reduced depression and isolation.

While technology is never meant to replace human connection, it can enhance it. When people can see human faces and hear human voices with whom they can actually interact, it brings out a new sense of life and meaning. The work of Connections at Home is helping seniors age more gracefully and safely in their homes. You can learn more about their mission at: cahnj.org.