Even in the best of times, social isolation is a significant problem. In Washington, nearly half a million people over the age of 50 live alone. They are at higher risk of social isolation, which is now magnified by the “social distancing” requirements across the country. We know social distancing is especially critical to stay safe, but it can be hard on emotional and physical health.
The long-term effects of social isolation are very real. Over a prolonged period, the impact of isolation is more dangerous to our health than obesity, and it’s linked to a higher likelihood of accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function, stroke, and depression in adults 50 and older.
However, physical distancing does not have to mean social disconnection. Sometimes, just hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the phone can help in challenging times. Many of us have friends and family members who can stay in touch, but some do not. For those who may be experiencing social isolation and loneliness, you don’t have to face this difficult time alone.
AARP has created the AARP Friendly Voices program, which connects trained AARP volunteers with someone who needs a caring conversation. If you’re feeling alone or know someone who is, you can use the program to ask for a phone call from an AARP volunteer Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
AARP Friendly Voices is available in English and Spanish:
- You can call 1-888-281-0145 to set up a call for yourself or on behalf of someone else, or you can go online at https://aarpcommunityconnections.org/friendly-voices
- Spanish speakers can call 1-888-497-4108 to set up a call, or go online at https://aarpcommunityconnections.org/es/friendly-voices
AARP Friendly Voices is a free service available to any adult, age 18 and over, who is experiencing social isolation and/or loneliness. You do not need to be an AARP member to request a call.
If there is one thing that this pandemic has made clear, it’s that personal connections are immensely valuable and sorely missed. We may have all scaled back our personal interactions to stay safe, but that doesn’t mean we have to be alone.
Contributor Christina Clem is a communications specialist with AARP Washington. For information about AARP activities in Washington state, visit states.aarp.org/washington.