‘Call on us’
Oregon Senior Peer Outreach program confronts loneliness
By Kris Boler, MBA
Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc.
Do you know someone in your community who is isolated and feeling lonely?
Remoteness and social isolation are issues affecting older community members from all walks of life — and the impacts are severe. The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) reports that isolation and loneliness in seniors is associated with higher rates of:
- Chronic health conditions, including heart disease
- Weakened immune system
- Depression and anxiety
- Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
- Admission to nursing homes
- Increased use of emergency services
Fortunately, support is available.
A new program can offer help to reduce loneliness and isolation: the Oregon Senior Peer Outreach.
This program provides a free weekly telephone support call from a trained peer support specialist. The peers are Seniors (55+) and they identify with some of the unique challenges of growing older and spending too much time alone. These peers come from a place of understanding, aiming to provide a caring, personal connection.
This is what program participants are saying:
“I haven’t had anybody to share with for years.”
“I look forward to weekly calls from my peer support specialist — I think of her as a friend.”
“My Mondays are so much better because I look forward to my call.”
“I have felt less depressed and my life is more full of light.”
Isolation and loneliness can cause a person to become more withdrawn and less self-motivated to make or keep vital social connections in their lives. As you can imagine, the more isolated an older adult is, the harder it is to find them to offer help. We encourage you to refer people in your community who might benefit from this program.
The senior peer outreach program is just one example of endeavors regarding healthy aging in our state.
The Older Adult Behavioral Health Initiative (OABHI), coordinated by the Oregon Health Authority and 24 specialists across Oregon, has the role of improving the ability of each community’s behavioral health system to provide the kind of services older adults require. Under the OABHI umbrella, these specialists support the peer outreach network.
The program hires Senior Peer Support Specialists to call participating seniors. Team members who are both seniors and peers provide a vital bridge of support between older adults and needed services.
To our community, the message from the Oregon Senior Peer Outreach network is clear: “There’s no need to go it alone.”
How to get involved
If you would like program postcards or business cards please let us know. We are happy to provide you with the resources you need to refer people to this program.
To make referrals to this program, please fill out the on-line Referral Request form at: https://communitycounselingsolutions.org/senior-outreach or call our Oregon Senior Peer Outreach Program Supervisor at our toll-free referral line: 1-833-736-4676.
To learn more about the OABHI program, visit the OABHI program page.