AUSTIN (KXAN) — Holidays can be an especially difficult time for seniors who may already be experiencing social isolation.
Friday, the health insurance company Humana is offering a free brunch for seniors and their guests to combat those feelings.
“It’s different from loneliness,” said Anissa Castillo, a health educator with Humana. “You are disconnected for quite some time from contact and socializing with other people when you’re isolated. When you’re lonely, it’s temporary.”
The No Senior Eats Alone brunch happens from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Humana Neighborhood Center in northwest Austin (10710 Research Blvd., Suite 120). You don’t need Humana insurance to attend. RSVP by calling 512-808-2821.
Eddye Eubanks planned to be at the meal Friday morning. She and her husband are regulars at the Neighborhood Center, a place for seniors to socialize and take free classes focused on exercise, nutrition, finances and other topics.
“How to make friends, how to explore new things” are also featured in classes, Eubanks said. She and her husband stay pretty busy, so they don’t feel isolated, but that’s not the case for everyone who uses the center.
“I truly do think this has kept people alive,” she said.
More than a quarter of older Americans — almost 14 million people — live alone, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging.
That can lead to social isolation, researches say, which can in turn lead to mental and physical health effects, including anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and even death.
“Just a 10, 15-minute visit can make a world of difference in the lives of these folks,” said Thad Rosenfeld, spokesman for Meals on Wheels Central Texas.
The nonprofit delivers more than food to home-bound seniors, he said. Volunteers are often the only people home-bound seniors will see all day.
“We’ve been out all day working and we see other people,” he said. “But seniors who live alone may not see anyone all day. So I really urge central Texans this time of year, and really year-round, to reach out to their older neighbors.”
Meals on Wheels is always looking for volunteers, especially as rising prices in east Austin force clients to areas farther from the organization’s distribution center.
It takes an hour a week to volunteer, Rosenfeld said, but that time is invaluable to seniors who may feel isolated.
“It’s an easy way to make a big difference in the lives of home-bound seniors.”