Lake County organizations, interactions with loved ones can help reduce senior isolation

Nov. 21—As a season of holidays and gatherings with loved ones approaches, local organizations and loved ones continue to be available for senior citizens who are feeling isolated.

"Isolation for a senior may occur if the individual lives alone and has minimal to no contact with family, friends or other social supports," said Tim Rieder, social work manager at the Lake County Council on Aging.

He noted that social isolation can negatively impact both mental and physical health. It can lead to higher levels of anxiety and depression, while seniors who are socially isolated may not receive the physical care that they need.

Rieder explained that social isolation can be addressed with the help of loved ones or local organizations.

"Seniors should know that if they feel lonely, they are not alone and can reach out to others for help. There is a strong community support out there just waiting to help them get through any difficulties or challenges they may be experiencing."

— Tim Rieder, social work manager at the Lake County Council on Aging

"A senior will be less likely to experience isolation if they welcome support into their home, whether that be formal support, such as help from agencies like the Council on Aging, or informal support, such as visits from friends or family members," he said.

Rieder recommended that people with loved ones who are isolated do what they can to reach out and stay connected, as well as invite loved ones to social events.

"Get out and visit someone you have not seen in a while, call them as much as you can, send them a card to let them know you care and are thinking about them," Rieder said, adding, "A simple phone call can instantly help the individual feel less alone."

He also noted some potential signs or triggers of senior isolation.

"Pay attention to anyone who may be experiencing a change in mood, such as feeling down more often or taking less care of themselves," he said. "Be mindful of anyone who has experienced a recent loss, whether it's a loss of a loved one or loss of independence due to a decline in health."

For seniors who are looking to learn more about local resources, the Council on Aging offers the Aging and Disability Resource Center. Rieder said that the center informs callers of the organization's resources as well as those offered by other community groups.

Licensed social workers can also visit seniors to discuss the in-home services that may benefit them.

Other Council on Aging programs provide opportunities for social interaction in addition to physical assistance, Rieder said. The Meals on Wheels program involves volunteers bringing participants a warm meal, while the council also offers a program where homemakers can come every other week to help with "light housekeeping services."

As for seniors who are looking to serve others, he noted that there are volunteer opportunities available with the Council on Aging.

Seniors who are interested in learning more about opportunities with the Council on Aging or loved ones who are concerned about isolated seniors can call the organization at 440-205-8111.

People can also visit for more information.

Outside of the Council on Aging, Rieder noted that churches and other religious organizations are additional avenues for social interaction as they can provide "spiritual support and opportunities to attend social functions."

"Lake County has a very supportive community with a wealth of resources that can help, from counseling and mental health services to community volunteer and church groups that can provide support with the goal to reduce isolation," he said.

Local senior centers provide additional opportunities for seniors to interact with others, Rieder noted.

More than 5,000 people are members of the Mentor Senior Center, according to its website.

"We're a very active center. We have a ton of programs, and there's many, many ways to get involved," Recreation Coordinator Dave Duricky said in explaining the programs offered by the Mentor center.

He noted that the center offers a lunch program on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

According to Duricky, other activities available at the senior center include fitness classes, Wii Sports bowling, bingo and card games such as bridge, pinochle, Rummikub and hand, knee and foot. There are also opportunities to engage in ceramics, painting, quilting and other arts and crafts.

The center also offers a special elder program on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for members who can arrive independently but may need to be reminded when they have classes or other activities. They also receive an earlier lunch.

"We've had people that their spouses passed away and then they move here to be with their grown kids and they don't know anybody," Duricky said. "So often they'll come here and they'll join the senior center and say, 'This is awesome,' because they're from another state, they come here, they don't know anybody, but then they meet all kinds of people at the senior center.

"It's a great way for people to get out of their house and meet people and stay active psychologically, socially and physically, so it's important to do, because the more that they're out and about the better off they're going to be."

He encouraged people who are interested to walk in to receive a tour and informational newsletter. Membership at the center is $7 for Mentor residents and $10 for non-residents, while people in the SilverSneakers program will receive free membership.

There are a total of nine senior centers in Lake County, as listed on the Lake County Commissioners' Office Senior Services web page. In addition to Mentor, senior centers are available in Eastlake, Fairport Harbor, Kirtland, Madison, Perry, Wickliffe, Willoughby and Willowick.

"All the senior centers offer great programs, so whether you live in Willoughby or whether you're out in Madison, there's all kinds of programs that all the senior centers can offer to those folks," Duricky said.

Additional services can be found on the county Senior Services page at

One program listed on the web page, Laketran Dial-a-Ride, offers rides to those who make reservations ahead of time. Transportation is offered to locations in Lake County as well as select medical destinations in Cleveland. People can visit for more information.

"Seniors should know that if they feel lonely, they are not alone and can reach out to others for help," Rieder said. "There is a strong community support out there just waiting to help them get through any difficulties or challenges they may be experiencing."

He encouraged community members "to identify those individuals at risk for being isolated and utilize community resources to develop a strong support network for them," adding, "Your simple act of kindness in reducing senior isolation can make a huge impact."