The majority of older Americans want to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. However because of the death of a spouse, separation from friends or family, retirement, and loss of mobility, many elders are living alone. About 28% of older adults in the U.S. ,or 13.8 million people, live alone. This social isolation often results in loneliness and increased health risks.
Research has shown that social isolation and loneliness have lead to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression and cognitive decline.
Older Americans can utilize a number of strategies to stay in their home and still avoid the risks of social isolation. One valuable strategy is for seniors to engage with younger people in meaningful ways. Silvernest, a home sharing platform, had just announced an innovative partnership with two Americorps programs, Teach for America in Denver and City Year in Miami.
Homeowners in Denver and Miami connect via Silvernest with young teachers to provide them with rooms in their homes. It’s a win-win for both. The young teachers get affordable rent, guidance in navigating new cities, and an experienced friend. Homeowners will get a source of income, a chance to mentor and make a new friend, plus the prospect of comfort, security and help around the house.
The Little Steps Community Daycare center in rural Georgia, has transformed the lives of children, parents and senior volunteers in their community. Low income families were having a great deal of difficulty finding reasonably priced daycare. Lindsey McCamy, Executive Director of Family Promise of Hall County proposed opening a free day care at an underutilized community center. She recruited elder volunteers who lived in nearby apartments to staff the facility along with professionals.
As a result children get attentive care from staff members and volunteers. Parents have time to hold down a steady job, attend classes and get back on their feet. The center’s older volunteers find connection and purpose caring for their neighbors’ children.
Much research has shown that bringing the generations together in meaningful ways can reduce the impact of several problems and create a win-win for all involved. Younger people can find housing, mentors and after school care. Older people can reduce loneliness, the most significant public health issue of our time and restore purpose in their lives.