8 ways seniors can combat loneliness and social isolation
Feelings of social isolation and loneliness can have a huge impact on your mental and physical health. In fact, a recent study published in the journal of Perspectives on Psychological Science found loneliness can be as deadly as smoking or obesity. Social isolation often leads to bad health habits, such as smoking, excessive drinking, poor eating habits and neglected physical activity, which can dramatically reduce life-expectancy. Loneliness and social isolation have also been associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia, as well as higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory this month calling loneliness and isolation “profound threats to our health and well-being” and called on all of us to respond by “strengthening our relationships and connections.”
Here are some ways you can combat loneliness and social isolation:
- Join an exercise class. Exercising in a group setting is a good way to increase your physical fitness while also making new friends. It can give you motivation to get out and move. Regence Medicare Advantage plans come with the no-cost fitness program. The program gives you access to thousands of fitness centers nationwide, along with exercises classes and many other fitness options and healthy-aging resources. Learn more on the Silver&Fit website.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Getting proper nutrition will help give you the strength and energy you need to go out and socialize. Eating right will also boost your mental health. Most Regence Medicare plans include a meal delivery service to help members get nutritious meals while they’re recovering from a hospital stay or managing a chronic condition. There are eligibility requirements for the service, so call the number on the back of your member ID card to find out your options.
- Check your hearing. Untreated hearing loss can lead to isolation and loneliness even when you’re with other people because it’s hard to participate in conversations and activities when you can’t hear. Most Regence Medicare Advantage plans include a no-cost hearing exam and Medicare hearing aid coverage for up to two hearing aids (one per ear, per year), as well as batteries and follow-up visits for fittings or adjustments. For most plans, you can choose from a wide selection of rechargeable and battery-powered hearing aids that deliver natural sound along with the latest technologies such as Bluetooth connectivity and a built-in activity tracker. Regence members can sign in at regence.com to learn about their hearing aid benefits.
- Try our companionship program. Most Regence Medicare plans include a companionship program available both virtually and in person. In addition to being a friend you can talk to, trained companions can help with everyday tasks like light housework, shopping for groceries and picking up prescriptions. Learn more about the program.
- Consider getting a roommate. Finding a roommate with similar interests can give you a friend and social support while also helping reduce your living expenses. There are roommate-matching agencies that perform background checks and can help you find someone with similar interests.
- Sign up for senior center programs. Senior centers usually have a wide variety of activities, from singing to games and watercolor painting.
- Seek volunteer opportunities. Becoming a volunteer is a way to both serve your community and meet new people. There are many volunteer opportunities available that can fit with your skills and interests, from reading to children at the local library to helping at the animal shelter or volunteering at the hospital. You could also get involved with a service group like Kiwanis or Lions Club.
- Get help if you need it. If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, substance use disorder or other behavioral health issues, help is available. Most Regence plans include access to both in-person and virtual behavioral health resources. Our virtual mental health treatment options include services like AbleTo Therapy+, Doctor on Demand, Talkspace and more. Regence also partners with Boulder Care, Eleanor Health (WA only) and Hazelden Betty Ford to help those dealing with substance abuse. For immediate concerns, call the 24/7 suicide and crisis hotline at 988.
We’re here to help
Members can learn more about all their benefits by signing in at regence.com, where they can also live chat or message Customer Service. Live online chat assistance is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. You can also call us at 1 (800) 541-8981 (TTY: 711). Our phone hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. From Oct. 1 through March 31, we’re available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
Remember 988 — the new National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. When people call, text, or chat 988, they’ll be connected to trained counselors who will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if needed.