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The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of socialization in senior citizens

Many look forward to the visit from the meals on wheels volunteer
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 10:30 AM MST
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Social isolation and loneliness are serious health risks in the elderly population, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the problem.

New research shows that nearly 1/3 of adults over the age of 45 feel lonely, and 1/4 of adults over the age of 65 are socially isolated.

“The biggest risk that a senior has is loneliness, and it’s just proven people that are lonely get sicker, they don’t live as long, and they have a higher rate of dementia,” said Shawna Wasko from the CSI Office on Aging.

Many take advantage of senior centers or other community activities, but the risk of COVID-19 has made it difficult for people to stay connected.

“We know that we’ve gotten many calls with people saying, ‘I’m so bored, when are you going to open? You have to open the senior centers,’” said Wasko.

The Twin Falls Senior Center has been closed for congregate meals but has been offering curbside pickup for members.

The meals on wheels program have grown from 220 meals a day to over 250.

“It’s more than a meal, it’s also a friendly face that comes to meet them during the day, to make sure that they are doing okay,” said Barbara Mercer, the new interim director at the Twin Falls Senior Center. “That’s very important, to make sure they are taking their medications because that meal comes at noontime when many of them take their medications, so it’s a welfare check as well.”

Many look forward to the visit from the meals on wheels volunteer. “For many senior citizens, that is the only person who comes to see them during the day,” said Mercer.

Both the Office on Aging and the Senior Center look forward to things opening up, and the seniors having interaction again.

“It really puts a light on the fact that loneliness is the issue that we at the Office on Aging are trying to combat with our clients because we know that makes them most at risk,” said Wasko.

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