Working to Re-engage Elders
Greater Springfield Senior Services recently honored the recipients of “Let’s Re-engAGE” grants for projects intended to reduce social isolation and loneliness among older adults.
Three $5,000 grants were awarded for programs that demonstrated the capacity to reengage seniors with others, engage stakeholders and the community in the effort, and be sustainable.
Glenmeadow Retirement Community, of Longmeadow, will receive funding for “Neighbor to Neighbor,” a friendly visitor program to reach isolated seniors in their homes and provide on-going one-on-one relationships to decrease the effects of isolation. Volunteer recruitment, training and mentorship will be provided by community partners that include the Longmeadow Council on Aging, Temple Beth El, First Church of Christ of Longmeadow, and the Spiritual Care Department at Baystate Medical Center.
Valley Eye Radio, of Springfield, will receive funding to upgrade its antiquated software and hardware to provide more programming for the visually impaired and expand to more people. Valley Eye Radio has a 39-year history of keeping older adults connected to the community by providing local news and information to listeners who cannot read independently due to physical impairments.
The Indian Orchard branch of the Springfield City Library will be developing “You’re Invited,” a drop-in program to engage area seniors with various group activities and educational programs. The library will be partnering with various community organizations to help identify at-risk seniors and get them involved with the programs.
The grants are part of the Greater Springfield Senior Services initiative to address social isolation among older adults, which studies have suggested is a threat to public health. Research from the American Psychological Association revealed that loneliness now represents a threat to public health rivaling that of obesity.
According to Mary Jenewin-Caplin, the agency’s director, social isolation and loneliness were identified as a critical need by local seniors through surveys and focus groups that were conducted to develop the agency’s 20182021 Area Plan.
“This is the very first time it was cited, coming in second to transportation ,” said Caplin. “We hope to raise community awareness of this issue and encourage other organizations to work together to develop innovative programs to meet this critical need.”
According to Caplin, out of the 10 proposals that were submitted, the winning organizations were selected by her agency’s board of directors for their outstanding programs that leverage community participation and resources in reaching out to isolated seniors. All three organizations have a history of working with seniors and have plans to sustain their programs.
Funds for this initiative are provided through the state Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Federal Administration for Community Living and Greater Springfield Senior Services.
Indian Orchard Branch Library Manager Diane Houle.