As we become older, our lives change in many ways. People retire, children grow up and move out, friends move to distant places, and some friends and family members pass away.
“These are natural life changes, but they can bring serious consequences for our health if they leave us feeling isolated,” says Susan Houston, Vice President of Older Adult Services at the non-profit Peninsula Family Service.
Currently, there are about 46 million Americans over the age of 65. That number will double by 2060. About a quarter of older Americans live in social isolation, and the risk of isolation increases with age. Neither age nor solitary living alone causes social isolation, but both can be contributing factors.
“Loneliness and isolation can increase the risk of cognitive decline, depression, high blood pressure, long-term illness and mortality,” says Houston, adding that they can also increase the risk of elder abuse.
“While isolation may be common, it is not inevitable,” Houston explains.
To help overcome this pervasive challenge of isolation, Houston helped to create 70 Strong, a free referral, website and concierge service for people 60 years and older living in the Sequoia Healthcare District — Atherton, Belmont, Portola Valley, Redwood City, Redwood Shore, San Carlos, Woodside and parts of Foster City, Menlo Park and San Mateo (94404).
Support Groups for Older Adults Offer Friendship and Empathy
Now 70 Strong, an initiative of the Sequoia Healthcare District in partnership with Peninsula Family Service, is coming into its own, attracting increasing numbers to the 70 Strong.org website. The site offers a wealth of support group resources that are available in the community, whether it’s for health and wellness, mental health, caregiving or aging in place. Click here to see a listing of Support Groups.
Talk with a Navigator
70 Strong also has Navigators on the team who take phone calls at 650.780.7547 and meet one-on-one with members of the community at various sites including Belmont Library, Little House in Menlo Park and Veterans Memorial Senior Center in Redwood City. (See the 70 Strong Events section for dates and times of upcoming visits).
70 Strong’s comprehensive resources can link seniors, caregivers and those who love them to critical support systems, activities, services and groups so that they can stay active and fully engaged in the community in their golden years and beyond.
Houston explains that although many older adults want to join a support group, some don’t know where to turn to find the different groups that meet in their communities and are available for their specific needs. This is where 70 Strong can help.
Connecting with Others Who Face Similar Challenges
Groups are available for people with specific medical conditions, such as dementia or cancer, while others are geared more towards caregivers or caregiving relationships.
Some groups are led by peers while others are led by trained facilitators, such as psychologists or social workers who can guide the conversation and bring up new topics.
Other groups can be found through community-based organizations, senior centers, social services agencies and area agencies on aging. 70 Strong brings them all together in one convenient location so that you can access your chosen group with just a few clicks of the mouse.
During a group meeting, members can:
- Get and receive support
- Ask questions
- Share information
- Get and receive support
- Discuss experiences
- Listen and learn
- Learn new coping skills
- Improve communications
Community Services and Support Groups
Having a strong support system can help decrease depression and anxiety, lower stress and promote better coping skills. People who have ample social support report higher levels of well-being and enjoy a better quality of life.
Unfortunately, caregivers and older adults might hesitate to openly discuss their needs and concerns with their loved ones, fearing emotional reactions, concerns or even judgments. Sharing in a more anonymous environment, such as a social support group, can fill the gap.
70 Strong brings them all together in one convenient location so that you can find a group easily.
Not everyone is comfortable with traditional support group environments, but today, there are plenty of alternative options, including phone and online support groups. These alternative settings can help those who need support from a distance or those who keep non-traditional hours, as well as those who prefer a more low-key approach.
Finding Your Home-Away-from-Home
Finding the right support group for your needs might feel like an overwhelming task, particularly if you already are feeling isolated. 70 Strong.org has everything you need to get started so that you can access health resources, culturally specific support services, social groups, caregiver services, LGBTQ+ support services, classes, behavioral counseling and even sports and clubs.
If you attend a few meetings and just don’t feel at home, try a new group. With the number of support groups and social programs available, you are sure to find one that fits your personality and needs.
Once you do find your new social “home away from home,” try to make the meetings and activities a part of your weekly or monthly routine. Maintaining a structured schedule can further help reduce anxiety and depression while improving your overall sense of well-being.
Get Involved Today
Regardless of whether you’re more of an introvert or extrovert, social isolation isn’t healthy. When we isolate ourselves from interactions with others, we put ourselves at risk of depression, difficulty handling our daily responsibilities and lower mental function.
Staying active and involved, connecting with other seniors or caregivers, and simply sharing your life can help you live a healthier, happier life. Check out the 70 Strong directory today to discover new friends, new activities, new hobbies and so much more. Or give 70 Strong a call at 650.780.7547.