Seniors and loneliness

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. — Here in our community and across the nation seniors are taking their lives more often than anyone else. Health officials say the reason behind that is attributed to a feeling of loneliness.

Joan Kramer with Medford Senior Center says she sees a lot of people going to the Senior Center when they start to lose people in their lives.

“One lady told me when her husband passed away she was kind of languishing around at home,” Kramer said.

It’s a common story for many seniors. As they continue to age, friends and loved ones start to pass away, which oftentimes leaves people feeling lonely.

“You have a smaller network of people to interact with and eventually it starts to deteriorate even more.” Sean Connolly, older adult behavioral health specialist with RVCOG, said. “As people pass away, or move away, it gets really lonely for folks, they start to that deterioration starts kind of compound on them.”

Those feelings can cause many people to think about taking their own life.

“We a lot of times think of youth being at the highest risk, but it’s actually a white males age 70 and over,” Connolly said.

Seniors can face many barriers when it comes to living life like they used to.

Some of those barriers include losing a driver’s license and having to rely on other people or other transportation.

“Now they may have trouble driving or their sibling or their spouse used to do a lot of the care has died or moved away or something,” Connolly said. “Now they no longer have access to the transportation, so they can’t access some of these services, whether it be mental health, physical health, that they might have been able to access before.”

Living in Southern Oregon poses its own problems for people. There are many rural areas that don’t have a local senior center, bus routes or volunteer groups that take seniors where they need to go.

“Maybe you live in a more rural area that doesn’t afford you the opportunity to travel in and out of town like you may be used to when you were younger,” Stacy Brubaker, Jackson County Mental Health, said. “So a lot of people feel really isolated and lonely .”

There aren’t ways to replace the loved ones we’ve lost but there are ways for seniors to find purpose in their life again.

Here are some ideas:

  • Visit your local senior center.
  • Sign up to have meals delivered to your home.
  • Reach out to someone you haven’t talk to.

Experts say, having something you can look forward to or someone to rely on and vice versa can make the world of a difference.

“It’s sad because it doesn’t have to be that way, suicide is the number one most preventable cause of death. So, it’s amazing when people do get help, there are amazing transformations that happen,” Connolly said.

Here are some contacts if you’re a senior and want to reach out for help:

  • Senior Loneliness Line
    • 503-200-1633 or 800-282-7035
  • For thoughts of minor depression see if PEARLS is a good fit for you
    • call 541-423-1363
  • See if you’re eligible for Meals on Wheels
    • Jackson County: 541-734-9505
    • Josephine County: 541-955-8839
  • RVCOG Seniors and Disability Services
    • 541-664-6674
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • 1800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Crisis Text Line
    • 741741

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