NPR Report on Understanding Social Isolation Has St. John’s Focus

This spring, WXXI News joined other NPR affiliates across New York State and the Northeast to form an upstate public radio reporting collaborative to explore issues related to older adults. WXXI’s Morning Edition host and reporter Beth Adams focused her report on seniors who experience isolation and loneliness, as well as the support network available throughout the Rochester community that can help those older adults who feel socially isolated.

Brickstone by St. John’s resident Liz Sabo (photo by WXXI’s Max Schulte)

Brickstone by St. John’s resident Liz Sabo is a great example of someone who has experienced loneliness in the past yet found their way through it. She told Adams that her first years living in independent living at St. John’s were at times difficult, particularly due to the unique challenges of caring for her late husband Bob. As Bob’s dementia progressed and Liz worried more about his safety and well-being, she began to feel more isolated, even though she had moved to a community where there were people and events happening just outside of her door. “Her world started shrinking quickly,” explained Adams.

Even while living independently in their apartments, St. John’s has professionals looking out for residents who may be at risk for experiencing isolation. “Loneliness in our elders can look like a lot of things,” Hannah De George, St. John’s Meadows Elder Advocate, told Adams. “It can look like mood changes, it can look like appetite changes, it can look like not taking part in activities that they used to.”

“If we can address loneliness and isolation, we can prevent all kinds of downstream negative effects,” University of Rochester Medical Center Clinical Psychologist Kim Van Orden told WXXI. Dr. Van Orden is leading the Social Connection Coaching Project through URMC’s HOPE Lab, a study of adults 60+ who are living in senior living communities, including several participants living at St. John’s Meadows.

As for Liz Sabo, she did eventually strike a balance in her life at St. John’s and learned to use the amenities and supports available to her to her advantage. From the WXXI story:

Sabo understands how privileged she is to live at St. John’s where social opportunities are always available. Since her husband’s death in July 2022, she has had more time to socialize. She got a membership at the JCC and joined a book club on the Brickstone campus, which she now leads.

Read or listen to ‘I needed to be around people’: She didn’t want to be lonely as she aged. Here’s what she did, a WXXI News story

How can you avoid loneliness while living alone? See part 2 of the Beth Adam’s story on older adults and social isolation.

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