It’s a common misconception: Loneliness and social isolation are just a normal part of aging. In truth, they are not. Furthermore, loneliness and social isolation pose very real health risks: Prolonged isolation has been shown to be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And a 2020 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) showed that Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death.

And yet, this is an issue that’s on the rise among older adults—and the COVID-19 pandemic compounds the problem, as older adults continue to avoid social interactions to keep themselves safe as they await a vaccine.

To address the issue, ARC’s Empowerline has launched a program called the One2One Telephone Reassurance Program — in which volunteers make friendly phone calls to metro Atlanta residents who are 60 or older — or who live with a disability — providing welcome companionship.

To learn more, we spoke with Nicola Williams, program coordinator for Empowerline’s One2One Telephone Reassurance Program.

What is the goal of the One2One Program?

Nicola: At its heart, One2One is about providing a sense of well-being through one-on-one communication with another caring individual.

How does it work?

Nicola: It’s pretty simple. Our volunteers call their clients twice each week for at least 15 minutes, as agreed upon by both individuals.

Of course, we ensure all our volunteers are safe and trustworthy. All volunteers must pass a fingerprint background check—and all receive initial training, too. And volunteers have found it to be just as rewarding as those who are getting the calls.

Really? How so?

Nicola: Well, it’s has been proven time and again that volunteering is beneficial not only to recipients of service, but also to volunteers themselves. In this case, people are telling us they’re gaining a real sense of connection, as well as the satisfaction of knowing they’ve made a real difference in someone else’s life. (Learn more about the One2One Program, including how to volunteer.)

What if a reader is interested in receiving calls from a volunteer?

Nicola: We’re absolutely open to new clients. It bears repeating: Loneliness is not a normal part of the aging process — nor is it a normal part of living with a disability — and we’re here to help. Just call Empowerline at (404) 463-3333, or reach out to me directly at (470) 378-1447, to sign up or make a referral.

Empowerline’s One2One Program

  • Providing companionship and support to people at-risk of social isolation and loneliness, enabling them to stay connected to their communities.
  • Volunteers must be 23 or older, pass a screening, and undergo a brief training.
  • Volunteers must commit to making 1-2 calls a week for a minimum of eight weeks.
  • Participants are residents of the metro Atlanta 10-county region age 60 or older or living with a disability.
  • The service is free.
  • Learn more.
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