Outliving your contemporaries can be hazardous to your health.
Several studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults, according to the National Institute on Aging. They also demonstrate how social isolation can have a significant emotional and physical impact on people.
U.S. Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) spoke of the phenomenon earlier this year during a session of the Special Committee on Aging.
"One survey to assess isolation among seniors asks this question: If you had good news or an interesting story to tell, do you know someone with whom you could share it?" Collins said. "Increasingly, older Americans are answering this question not with the name of a relative or a friend, but with the name of their cat or their dog."
Officials at the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center want to give the area's older residents someone other than a cat or dog with whom to share good news -- but they need help from the public.
A fundraising campaign is underway and will continue through Dec. 31 to bring in $8,000 that will be used to transform what had been a storage area at the center's headquarters, 3222 N. High St., into the Cheerful Place.
That's the name given to the planned space for senior citizens dedicated to socialization and fun activities.
"What we're trying to do with that space is combating social isolation," said Amanda Crawford, CRC development director.
Christine Happel, who heads up the Village in the Ville program for older people at the center, recently attended a training session regarding the problem of social isolation among seniors.
She said she learned about 16 million older Americans are considered to be socially isolated.
For this population, the risk of heart disease is increased by 29 percent, and the likelihood of a stroke goes up by 32 percent, according to information Happel brought from the training session offered by the American Society on Aging.
"It is a significant impact, and oftentimes people don't know they are socially isolated until they have an opportunity to get together and make friends," she said. "We believe it's a really important piece."
"As we get older, we have many losses, and one of them is the people who are closest to us," CRC Executive Director Bill Owens said. "That is commonly the most difficult thing for all of us to deal with, and so as we adjust to the loss of the people closest to us, one of the most important things is for us to make new commitments and new relationships.
"This space is designed to help people better deal with those losses."
The center provides transportation and other support services for older clients, Crawford said.
"We felt the missing piece of the puzzle was a gathering place to provide socialization and conversations when they are needed," she said.
She added the 43214 ZIP code has the largest percentage of senior citizens in Franklin County.
Currently, senior clients hold gatherings in the CRC's kitchen, but Happel said it's often bustling -- something that doesn't work when quiet or confidential discussions have to take place.
The $8,000 campaign had received $1,450 in donations as of Dec. 18.
Those who wish to contribute may do so at tinyurl.com/cheerfulplace.