Red heart in hands of the little girl. Symbol of love and family.Valentines day card. Mother's day. Backgrounds for social posters. Selective focus.

Imagine living in your own home or apartment with days between any communications with another person. Many senior adults who have modest daily interaction with family and friends can easily become isolated within their own residence.  

Depression often follows isolation, resulting in significant impact on physical health.

Stepping Up for Seniors (SUFS), a local not-for-profit organization, determined now is the time to begin bridging the social isolation gap.   

When they hatched the Loneliness Project just over a year ago, the program’s goal was to make a difference for some of the 5,300 senior adults in Peoria with sub-standard income. 

Seniors enrolled in the program receive an Amazon Echo, along with the assistance of a volunteer who teaches the basic uses of the device.  

Alexa is the “voice” of the Echo, which is a voice-activated smart device.

Tethered to a volunteer calling companion, program participants are able to interact visually and verbally at least two times per week. The internet-connected device also allows the senior participant access to the news; weather; music; books; as well as reminders for appointments, meals and medicine.  

Friends and family also can communicate with the participant using their own smartphone. In Peoria, the Loneliness Project aims to connect 35-45 seniors to a caring companion this year.

In our metropolitan area there are more than 100,000 senior adults living in poverty. SUFS was founded in 2014 to provide immediate, short-term health-related financial assistance to these adults.  

Medical disasters that lead to unexpected copays; deferred home maintenance that leads to unsafe living conditions; and transportation gaps, which can make medical appointments difficult to schedule, are some of the common challenges that SUFS can remedy.

I am amazed that this organization, so new to the resource network, has made such a dynamic impact in just a short time. Revenues all go directly to programming and the adults that the organization serves, with volunteers overseeing all phases of the work.

I can hear it now: “Alexa, call Stepping Up for Seniors!”

For more information about Stepping Up for Seniors and the Loneliness Project, go to steppingupforseniors.org or call 480-598-4910.

Vicki Hunt is a Peoria councilwoman.