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Grant awarded to Midland facility to address loneliness in elderly people

Flickr User - Nick Alayo |

A grant has been awarded for a new program in Midland aimed at addressing loneliness in elderly people.

Medical officials said loneliness can be a mental health condition that falls through the cracks. It can contribute to physical health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

Kathy Dollard is the director for behavioral health for MidMichigan Health. She said addressing loneliness is important because of the number of people it can affect.

“Cigna did a survey recently and found that almost 40% of people were saying that they felt lonely and that they didn’t have anyone they could rely on.”

Dollard said loneliness can contribute to health problems like heart disease and anxiety.

“There’s a lot of research that shows loneliness has worst effects that smoking, obesity, or sedentary lifestyle.”

Program workers will conduct loneliness screenings and identify social groups for the people that are found to be lonely.

Dollard said loneliness is a mental health problem that flies under the radar.

“Really what we’re going to do is to screen elderly people for loneliness,” she said. “And if they indicate that they’re lonely, we’re going to talk with them and assess a little further and then help them to find connections.”

Dollard says this is a pilot project in Midland. The goal is to expand the services to other MidMichigan Health facilities.

In the interest of transparency, MidMichigan Health is a financial supporter of WCMU.