Call to Connect Program Gives Emotional Support to Isolated Seniors

A new program from COPE Services is providing a vital community connection to seniors through weekly emotional support calls, thanks to a grant from Bader Philanthropies. The two-year program was launched in Fall 2017 and continues through Fall 2019.

As more Baby Boomers cross the 65+ threshold, the number of aging adults who live alone has grown to 11 million or 28 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For women, who tend to live longer, it is a startling 46 percent. Although living alone does not necessarily lead to isolation or loneliness, the risk is certainly much higher as spouses, close friends or family members pass on or move far away.

Isolated Seniors at Risk

Without a strong social network to support them, socially isolated seniors face many risks to their well-being and physical health. Elderly depression, cognitive decline, heart disease, diabetes and a variety of other chronic health conditions are prevalent among seniors who have little to no social contact or activity. As our health declines and getting out of the house becomes more difficult, these physical limitations can leave many seniors even more isolated.

“Added stress often goes together with the aging process,” said Cecile Duhnke, executive director for COPE Services. “Fortunately, Ozaukee and our other North Shore counties have many wonderful programs and services to help seniors enrich their lives, promote more social activity and improve overall health.”

Referrals to these services is one purpose for the Call to Connect program. But it is not the only one. By staying connected to these seniors over a period of six months, the goal is to develop trusting relationships, learn more about each senior’s situation, and then link them to supportive community services meeting their needs.

“By putting these at-risk seniors in touch with our knowledgeable volunteers, our hope is that this constant encouragement will help them to become more engaged in the community,” adds Duhnke. “That, in turn, could lead to other mental health and physical improvements.”

Community Collaboration

Up to 80 seniors in Ozaukee County and the North Shore Community of Greater Milwaukee will be served by the Call to Connect program. COPE staff and trained volunteer listeners will place calls to 20 seniors on a weekly basis for a six- month period. Those seniors will rotate out and a new group of seniors will be added for the second six-month period and so on. This process will be repeated in 2019.

To enroll a senior, to volunteer or get more information, please contact Jan Valentine at COPE. Call (262) 377-1477, ext. 108 or email her at

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