Q: I am concerned about my older brother. He is a 70-year-old gay man whose partner died over a year ago. It was stressful enough when he was dealing with grief, and then the pandemic started. My brother lives in an apartment building, and while his neighbors are friendly, he doesn’t feel any real connection to them. I call him often and have noticed he sounds very depressed. Are there any resources that could help him?
A: Even before COVID-19, a survey conducted by AARP reported 50% of LGBT older adults expressed feelings of loneliness or isolation. It would be no surprise to learn these feelings for many individuals have intensified due to the pandemic. Loneliness and social isolation are serious public health risks for older adults
Loneliness is the feeling of being alone regardless of the number of social contacts. Social isolation is a considerable lack of social connections. Your brother is potentially experiencing a combination of the two.
LGBT seniors often feel lonely more often than other groups due to discrimination, stigma and limited access to resources. Many of this population may be feeling especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis.
Social distancing may have created a situation where they do not have anyone to count on, check in on them or provide vital social connections. Your brother is fortunate to have you checking on him.
I recommend you continue to be a lifeline and call him as often as possible. You can also encourage him to stay in touch with other friends by phone or video conferencing.
Several years ago, our agency and the Merrimac Senior Center started the LGBT Senior Social Connection, which provides a monthly opportunity for individuals to gather. The meetings provide a place for social engagement and to combat isolation. The goals are to offer support, education and information about resources available to LGBT older adults in the Merrimack Valley and surrounding communities.
In-person meetings are on hold, but group facilitators make an effort to stay in touch with participants. For more information about the group or to locate more resources, call 978-946-1476.
Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.