This article originally appeared in the January 2021 edition of Senior Scope. Article by Seth Thomas.
By the end of 2020, the Food and Drug Administration authorized multiple COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use. Health experts encouraged the public to hold on for several more months as the vaccines slowly make their way through the general population.
For nearly a year, the pandemic has upended everyday life, shuttering businesses and community centers, which has made it harder for people to connect with one another. And the public health protocols that have separated Americans during the pandemic are expected to remain in place throughout the winter.
While limiting our exposure to others will help stop the spread of the virus, it will keep us in isolation that much longer. And researchers have long linked social isolation and feelings of loneliness to a variety of health problems, including anxiety and depression.
“We know people are feeling even more stressed,” said Darcy Lee, the executive director of the Samaritans of Fall River/New Bedford. “They’re afraid for their own health and feeling more isolated than ever because people are not able to visit them.”
The Samaritans of Fall River/New Bedford offers a free service that may help you if you’re feeling isolated right now. The agency’s telephone service, called KARE Calls, provides older adults with a friendly conversation once a week.
“It’s not therapy; it’s not counseling. It’s a volunteer calling you to have a chat,” said Lee. “There is a friendly, compassionate person on the other end of the line whom will contact you once a week to check in. People can talk for ten to fifteen minutes about anything they need to talk about.”
Lee said the volunteers will not judge you nor lecture you. And while the volunteers won’t offer you direct solutions to any given problem, they will give you the space to unburden yourself from your thoughts.
The Samaritans are perhaps most known for their suicide prevention hotline. But Lee notes that, much like the KARE Calls service, you do not need to be suicidal to call the hotline.
“You can share anything that you need to share that will help you de-stress your life,” she said, adding that mental health is as important as one’s physical wellbeing.
To learn more or sign up for the KARE Calls program, call the Samaritans of Fall River/New Bedford at 508-679 9777 ext. 10 or email Darcy Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Samaritans’ website by clicking here.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also text 1-877-870-4673. (In an emergency, please call 9-1-1 directly.)
To learn more about mental health services for older adults in the South Coast, call Coastline at 508-999-6400 or the New Bedford Council on Aging at 508-991-6250.