Lutheran SeniorLife Decreases Loneliness, Improves Wellbeing of Participants Posted on December 30, 2019 A knock on the door. A friendly smile. These simple acts have been proven to save lives, and face-to-face visitation is at the core of Lutheran SeniorLife’s programs and services. The Meals on Wheels program serves as a prime example of this important level of engagement in action. According to Meals on Wheels America, the effects of loneliness can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Our participants report that receiving Meals on Wheels helps them to feel less lonely. This is because we insist on personally checking on the participants with each delivery. Our Meals on Wheels volunteers do not leave the meal at the door. National research conducted by Meals on Wheels America, as well as the National Institute on Aging and others, informs us that visitation with our vulnerable elderly is just as important as the nutrition being provided through the Meals on Wheels program. And our experience throughout the past 50+ years of utilizing a model of visitation with nutrition confirms this data. In addition to combatting feelings of loneliness, our program also results in fewer hospital visits for our participants, as well as a decrease in the duration of those visits. Our research suggests that once individuals are enrolled in Meals on Wheels, they spend less time at the hospital each year, and more time enjoying independence in their own home. Another example of Lutheran SeniorLife’s work to decrease the loneliness of the elderly population is our work in the LIFE program, which is offered in partnership with health systems in four counties. The vast majority of LIFE program participants live alone. The LIFE program not only is the participant’s medical plan; it also provides social interaction for participants. The LIFE buses arrive at the participant’s home and take them to the LIFE Center, where participants gather for a meal, trips, exercise, and a variety of other activities. The activities coordinators in the LIFE programs work very hard to make sure the participants are active and engaged with each visit to the Center. Many participants receive this level of engagement five days per week. When the participants are not at the LIFE Center, program staff are visiting them at home and taking care of light housework and meals, as well as medication management and anything else needed by the participant to remain healthy at home. One lesser-known program of Lutheran SeniorLife is the Health & Wellness Ministry. This program, offered in partnership with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, works to promote whole-person health within congregations and communities. Visitation ministry is an important component of health and wellness ministry within congregations. While Lutheran SeniorLife does not provide our own visitation ministry, our Health & Wellness Ministry Coordinator helps congregations within the synod to establish this type of ministry in the church setting and provides training opportunities for visitation ministry volunteers. Volunteers visit the congregation’s at-home members when the individual is unable to attend worship services on a regular basis. Visits can last from 20 minutes to an hour or longer, and typically include friendly conversation as well as spiritual care. Currently, more than 100 individuals receive visits on a monthly basis through congregational visitation ministry within the synod. Face-to-face interaction is at the crux of all of what Lutheran SeniorLife has to offer – from Meals on Wheels to our palliative care services to our LIFE programs to our residential programming. And this level of engagement has been proven to decrease feelings of loneliness in our participants and to improve their medical outcomes. For more information on how we are working to give our residents and participants the best possible care, please contact us.