Social isolation and loneliness for older adults, many who are living alone, presents many risks. Often, people who live alone are vulnerable. They feel so alone every day, and they so desire to speak to someone. When a knock comes at their door, they are eager to open it – unfortunately, sometimes to their detriment.
Research links poor physical health to loneliness and social isolation. One study suggests that social isolation may increase the risk of premature death by as much as 50 percent. Daily contact is vital in helping the elderly age in place – the process of growing old in ones own home.
“Kesher” Telephone Reassurance program is operated by volunteers who maintain regular contact with older adults to ensure their well-being.
Some of the older adults are separated from their families by great distances making it difficult to be in close contact with them. Others have no families with whom they can visit or speak. As they age, they may lose close friends, and they tend to remain in their homes, spending more and more time alone.
Melabev – Community Care for People with dementia, seeing the need for this target population, began the program in 2011. This nationwide service is offered free of charge to all subscribers. Today, there are over 1800 subscribers. The service is mainly staffed by volunteers who place multiple phone calls a day to reach out and let them know that someone cares.
Some of the volunteers in this program are elderly themselves. As one gentleman who is 95 years old said, “I may be old, but I still have the desire to help others. If I can make a person laugh, I feel I am still worth something.” Volunteers make calls consistently to the same people. This allows them to form a meaningful bond with the person on the other end of the telephone. The client determines the frequency of calls- from once a week, up to five times a week.
The friendly voice on the other end of the phone fills a significant void in the lives of isolated older people by providing much-needed human contact and a lifeline to the outside world.
“I wait by the phone every day for my phone call from Melabev. It is the only human contact I have on most days,” says Aviva. “Most importantly,” she stated, “if there is ever a time when I don’t answer the phone, I know that Melabev will send someone to check on me.”