A 2018 study based on data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study found that an estimated 7.7 million community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older in the United States were socially isolated and an additional 1.3 million were severely socially isolated.
While the data used was gathered in 2011, it indicates that nearly 30% of U.S. adults in this age category were suffering from loneliness. This is a public health concern, as loneliness and social isolation have been linked to serious health conditions including dementia, heart disease and stroke, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since 2013, Love For Our Elders has worked to alleviate social isolation among older adults. Its mission is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns and social distancing rules prevent older adults from seeing their families and friends, especially those in senior living and retirement homes.
The non-profit has had several initiatives that work to fight loneliness with love, including “Letters of Love.” Through this program, people can send anonymous, handwritten cards that get mailed across the globe to elders in senior communities that are connected with Love For Our Elders. People are welcome to send as many letters as they would like; check out these guidelines if you are interested in brightening an older adult’s day.
In 2020, the program sent 90,333 letters of love to 952 senior facilities across seven countries: Australia, Canada, England, India, Ireland, Malawi, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S.
Though letters are accepted year-round, Love For Our Elders has designated Friday, Feb. 26 as the national “Letter to an Elder Day.”
“The pandemic is making the isolation of our elders more apparent. With Letter to an Elder Day, we hope to reach out and show them support during these hard times,” said Adi Breitman, an undergraduate student at Case Western Reserve University and the Operations Advisor for Love For Our Elders.
The organization is hosting a Zoom letter-writing social on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. EST. They are hoping to collect 10,000 letters by then for distribution. RSVP here if you want to join in.
Other programs include virtual letters that are sent to seniors who may not be able to receive a physical card. These 30-second video messages of hope, love and encouragement are sent to seniors affected by the pandemic to boost their spirits. They also created a Senior Storybook as a way to share inspiring and heartwarming stories about seniors.
The non-profit has more than 50,000 volunteers across 70 countries, ranging from individuals at home to schools and Fortune 500 companies. They run educational and awareness campaigns on social media and have shared their mission with tens of millions of people. Their work has been featured in CNN, National Geographic, Glamour, USAToday and O, The Oprah Magazine. To learn more about Love For Our Elders, click here.