From childhood games to professional sports, some of Jeremy Bloom’s biggest supporters were his grandparents. They were a consistent source of wisdom and guidance and their unwavering support instilled Bloom with the confidence to pursue and accomplish his big goals and dreams. Bloom founded Wish of a Lifetime to honor his grandparents and other elders who paved the way for all of us. We asked Bloom to share his thoughts on reducing social isolation in older adults.
What's the most important thing we should know about social isolation in older adults?
Jeremey Bloom: "That our older adult population has been dealing with the effects of social isolation long before the pandemic. While the pandemic has posed a great threat to our older adults, we are approaching a time and place where social isolation will again be the greatest risk to [their] health and wellness. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine [and] sponsored by AARP Foundation, showed nearly a quarter of Americans age 65 and older who live in community settings were socially isolated1. That social isolation can have a devastating effect on the health of individuals, studies have shown it has the health equivalency of smoking 15 cigarettes a day."
How can we be more intentional about reaching out to our senior relatives and community members?
"A phone call, a handwritten note, any way you can show someone you see them and care about them can have a profound effect.
Call an older adult in your life, but not just that, make sure the call is purposeful and not just a wellbeing check-in. Try seeking advice or ask about an event that occurred in their life. This more focused call will empower older adults with a feeling of confidence and reinforce that they are a meaningful part of your life. Most importantly, you will learn so much!
Make plans! Even though the pandemic limits our interactions, that does not mean we should not have hope that there are brighter days ahead. Especially with vaccines ramping up, it is important to plan for the future. Whether it be birthdays, family reunions, attending sports games or even visiting your favorite restaurants, planning reminds your loved one of all of the wonderful memories that they share with you and all that is still to come.
We are so lucky to have the opportunity to learn from people whose experience is often wide ranging and whose wisdom is priceless. Listening to stories of our older adult community members has given me insight and knowledge that I would have never received otherwise."
What's the biggest misconception we have about engaging with elders and how do you counter that?
"One of the biggest misconceptions that we see is that older adults are a burden on our society, that even despite their accomplishments and sacrifices they make few contributions to our current way of life. The reality is quite different, on a daily basis we see older adults embracing the challenges of being a caregiver for their loved ones, sharing a lifetime worth of wisdom and embarking on inspiring adventures and journeys. Wish of a Lifetime amplifies the value of our oldest generations by sharing these stories and inspiring our society to think about aging differently and see it as a time of possibility."
What prompted you to start Wish of a Lifetime?
"Throughout my career as a professional athlete some of my biggest supporters were my grandparents, they were a consistent source of wisdom and guidance and their unwavering support instilled a level confidence that allowed me to pursue and accomplish my goals and dreams. I wanted to give back to individuals like my grandparents who paved the way for me and continue to pave the way for all of us."
How can we get involved in Wish of a Lifetime activities?
"Wish of a Lifetime is centered around the idea that supporting our oldest population is a community effort and we are so proud to build out our program accordingly.
Since 2014, Wish of a Lifetime has organized Cupid Crew, a national movement that empowers volunteers all across the United States to spread love on Valentine’s Day by delivering a rose to an older adult. To date we have delivered over 100k roses."
"Wish of a Lifetime has been granting wishes since 2008 and has granted over 2,000 wishes. Wish granting can be elaborate or simple, but it’s the connections that make the biggest difference. In order to assure an ideal wish experience for older adults, we need help! Please email us at email@example.com to learn more!"
What else should we know?
"Isolation and loneliness are devastating issues that all older adults have to face to some degree, including ourselves as we age. Afterall aging is a universal experience. As a result, what we do now will not only bring joy and purpose to the lives of older adults but help build a society that benefits you, me, our children and generations to come."