New program aims to help senior citizens combat loneliness


Senior citizens creating paintings in the art studio. 
Photo credit: Cierra Richardson

The Tallahassee Senior Center plans to help older citizens facing depression and isolation by implementing a new program called UPSLIDE.

It stands for Utilizing and Promoting Social Engagement for Loneliness, Isolation and Depression in the elderly. It is set to help identify individuals ages 50 and older who may be socially isolated and help them reconnect with a larger community.

According to AARP’s Loneliness Study, approximately 42.6 million adults over the age of 45 in the U.S. are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness. Loneliness and isolation in older adults can be a result of multiple causes, including poor physical and mental health and major life events such as a loss of a loved one.

Tallahassee Senior Center Health and Wellness Coordinator Ruth Nickens said that the program will help identify senior citizens in the community facing loneliness and isolation. It will also decrease the problem, she said.

“We hope to identify and be able to support seniors who are living in isolation and help them break the cycle of loneliness, isolation, and depression. We at the center want to help them get back on the upward slide and become active within the community,” said Nickens.

Tallahassee Senior Center sign.
Photo credit: Cierra Richardson

To begin this new program, the Tallahassee Senior Center received a $221,000 grant from the Florida Blue Foundation. The center will be able to partner with organizations in the community to get senior citizens socially active in the program.

There will be activities such as outreach visits, counseling sessions and support-style chat groups available for senior citizens to receive health and wellness tips and opportunities for them to be able to be involved within the community.

Seniors will also be able to participate in physical activities such as line dancing, art projects and fitness groups at the center.

Sam Messchah, a Tallahassee Senior Center client, said he believes the new UPSLIDE program is important.

“This program allows me to find out that I am not the only one who lives alone and we all have similar problems. In the program we will be able to focus on how to solve these problems and get the benefit of being within a community,” said Messchah.

Kierra Kendrick, a nursing student at FAMU and a volunteer at the center, said the program should be beneficial for local senior citizens.

“I think that the new program is exactly what the senior citizens in the community need. The loneliness in the elderly community is heavily overlooked, but it is such a prominent problem. The loneliness can directly lead to a more serious condition such as depression,” said Kendrick.

Through the program, the center will be able to help strengthen and rebuild social engagement among senior citizens.

Nickens said she expects the program will provide reassurance and support to seniors.

“We are looking forward to learning about the impact of reintegrating people into social activities. Through this program, the possibility of improving the quality of life for people and creating more meaningful relationships will once again reclaim them to have a sense of purpose in this world,” said Nickens.

The three-year UPSLIDE program is set to launch in April.