Published on January 08, 2019

Elderly Adults Suffering from Loneliness to Benefit from Grant

Photo of Stephanie Leibfritz, community health manager at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland, and Kathy Dollard, Psy.D., L.P., director of behavioral health for MidMichigan Health.

Stephanie Leibfritz, community health manager at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland, and Kathy Dollard, Psy.D., L.P., director of behavioral health for MidMichigan Health.

Elderly Midland residents struggling with loneliness will benefit from a $224,874 grant given to the MidMichigan Health Foundation. This grant, awarded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, will support The Bridge to Belonging: Partnership to End Loneliness project.

This funding will help MidMichigan Health and its collaborating partners develop a system to address loneliness as a social determinant of health. Health providers will assess for loneliness and connect elderly adults to health and social resources in the Midland community. Partners joining MidMichigan on the project include 211 of Northeast Michigan, who will receive inquiries regarding resources for connection, as well as the Council of Aging who will provide case management, care management, social connection through programs and meal sites, volunteers and friendly visits.

According to Stephanie Leibfritz, R.N., M.S., community health manager for MidMichigan Health and co-director of this project, loneliness can cause numerous health complications in the aging population. “Mounting research has shown a link between loneliness and poor health outcomes,” explained Leibfritz. “Some data has shown that loneliness has worse health effects than smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.”

Kathy Dollard, Psy.D., L.P., director of behavioral health for MidMichigan Health and project co-director joining Leibfritz, added that lonely people die earlier than non-lonely people due to a host of health conditions. “Lonely people also report increased depression. Currently there is a lack of coordinated assessment and intervention within health care settings targeting this key social determinant of health in the older population. But thanks to the support provided by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund through this grant we are excited to implement comprehensive approaches to address this serious problem that affects many in our community.”

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents and reduce the cost of health care, with a special focus on children and seniors. More information about the Health Fund can be found at www.mhealthfund.com.

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