by: Lynette Whiteman, MS Executive Director, Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey
On May 3, 2017, two Toms River Family Health & Support Coalition partners, Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey (CVCJ) and Community Medical Center, joined together to host a 95+ Luncheon for local seniors. The event coincided with Older Americans Month. This year’s theme is “Age Out Loud.”
The honored guests were individuals who still live independently and ranged in age from 95 to 102 years old. All of the participants utilize CVCJ’s free volunteer services, including transportation provided by CVCJ volunteers or family members to the luncheon.
What a celebration it was! Guests shared stories about the many changes they have witnessed in their lifetimes, their secrets to a long life (hint – chocolate ice cream) and their views about the “young folks just looking down at their darn phones all the time.”
As the afternoon progressed, one thing became very clear – all the individuals in that room had a strong and intact social network. They either lived near family members, adopted our volunteers as their family members, or were able to stay in touch with friends. These people are the lucky ones.
Sadly, that is not the case for many seniors who live in Ocean County. Our county is home to more than 160,000 individuals aged 60 and older. The calls for help our office receives reveal the deep loneliness and isolation that many of these seniors face daily. Their stories of loss and feeling all alone in the world are heartbreaking.
Through our New Jersey Health Initiatives grant, our coalition has decided to focus on the issue of social isolation in seniors and what can be done to reduce this in our community. As more research emerges, it becomes evident that isolation is an issue that has true and damaging health consequences. Loneliness leads to increased visits to doctors, increased hospital emergency room visits and shorter life spans.
Our goal is to ensure that all seniors who live in Toms River feel welcomed, supported and have improved transportation options. Together, we’re going to “Age Out Loud” and build a joyful, connected community.
To follow our progress and learn more about the Toms River Family Health & Support Coalition, please visit https://healthiertr.org/. For more information about Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey, please visit http://caregivervolunteers.org/