HONOLULU (KHON2) — Whether it’s missing an exercise class at the Nuuanu YMCA, a ukulele class, or performance like here at the Catholic Charities Hawai’i Lanakila Multi-purpose Senior Center, normally-active socially connected seniors are now home-bound and isolated from their favorite activities.
“They are disappointed, the seniors just being able to come together…you know that’s their social network so they’re expressing disappointment,” said Lyn Moku who is the Catholic Charities Hawaii Program Volunteer Coordinator.
The center serves 1,500 seniors, and while many kupuna have a family member or caregiver nearby, many others do not. Moku says being alone can have a major effect on kupuna health and well-being.
“Depression, anxiety, it can affect the immune system and even be a factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and, of course, worst-case scenario is death, but that’s how important it is to have that socialization,” said Moku.
Fortunately, Catholic Charities, even before anyone knew of COVID-19, had been creating a new program called “Phone A Friend” to help avoid isolation and decrease loneliness.
“For seniors who are home alone, they’re socially isolated, so a volunteer, a trained volunteer, will actually call them on a regular basis.”
Catholic Charities is still recruiting participants, kupuna, who could benefit from the program. It’s also recruiting volunteers to make the phone calls.
“And we look for some commonalities, something that they have in common with each other so that it’s a good match,” said Moku. He believes that they’re going to be able to form a really meaningful bond: a friendship with that phone call.
If you know kupuna who could benefit from the free “Phone a Friend” program, or if you’d like to volunteer, call the Catholic Charities Senior Intake line at 527-4777.
There are other ways kupuna can stay connected. Moku says to call your family members, keep in touch with neighbors, find an indoor activity or hobby you really enjoy, learn something new, engage in light exercise, and volunteer. You can find opportunities online, or volunteer to call another kupuna in the “Phone a Friend” program.