Published June 22, 2017
Volume 1, Number 6

Social Connections Keep Seniors Healthy in the Tri-Valley

By Tina Hansen
Pulse Writer

Strong social connections within the community are central to our physical and mental well-being. As we age, social contacts and stimulation can be sharply reduced, which in turn has a direct impact on our health. For older adults, having a support system can be the difference between life and death.

When vulnerable adults experience isolation and a feeling of being disconnected, they are more likely to face a decline in health at a faster rate. According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), 18 percent of seniors live alone, and 43 percent of them report feeling lonely on a regular basis.

In the Tri-Valley community, Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley (SSPTV) has been offering seniors much needed support services and activity programs since 1981. SSPTV had 35 clients that first year and today it serves more than 1,600 seniors.

SSPTV offers many programs to its members, but one of their more essential and highly effective programs is called “Stepping Out And Reconnecting" (SOAR). The SOAR program reaches out to seniors living alone in their home, whose health and independence are deteriorating due to social withdrawal and isolation. SOAR intervention provides a lifeline to social interactions, new friendships, stimulating educational experiences, and cultural engagements. Such activities are known to enhance wellness, safety, and the ability to live independently.

SOAR launched in 2012 with the help of a $200,000 Alameda County behavioral health grant, but the program lost county funding at the end of 2014. SSPTV was able to continue SOAR for another two years without funding to cover the expenses.  

Last month SSPTV announced it had set up a Crowdfund account to seek community support and donations to continue the program, as well as prevent the loss of a critical senior services program in the community.

This month SSPTV received a $5,000 donation from Hacienda Helping Hands. That donation allows the program to not only continue, but to be able to add more members gradually. As more funding is received, SOAR will be able to serve more than the current cap of 40. According to Robert Taylor, SSPTV Executive Director, the approximate annual cost per senior to participate in the SOAR program is only $840.

The SOAR program includes weekly meetings and functions with staff, group and individual counseling, off-site events to parks, museums, and movies. SSPTV is unique and fills a void because they offer services that the city does not. For instance, SSPTV provides the only program that provides door-to-door transportation for medical appointments.

The loss of a program like SOAR that provides companionship to seniors can impact the community in other ways.  The seniors who are part of SOAR are living independently in their homes, but if they become unable to stay in their home other city and state resources will have to be used.

“A significant part of our mission is providing resources and support that seniors need to be able to remain healthy and well in their own home,” said Taylor.

The Tri-Valley community is active in its support of SSPTV. Currently, there are 180 volunteers in the “friendly visits program” and 260 group volunteers from area churches that provide other services. There are also a few community foundations that are assessing how they can help SSPTV and the SOAR program.

“Community engagement and support from Pleasanton and the surrounding area is really strong. That community support, like from Hacienda Helping Hands, is the foundation of Senior Support. Pleasanton is an extremely supportive environment, and the community really rallies to support the needs of seniors and our efforts to make sure seniors are healthy and well and living a good life,” says Taylor.

For more information on Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley, visit their website http://www.ssptv.org/. Or to contribute, click here https://www.youcaring.com/seniorsupportprogramofthetrivalley-759527.