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Article Type: Blog

How Fighting Loneliness Transforms an Institution From the Inside

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          All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

          All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

          -The Beatles, “Eleanor Rigby”

Inspired by the Community

It all started with a group of three women. Three fast friends who eventually grew to five, they showed up to the CREATION® Health Wellness Center at AdventHealth Zephyrhills day after day, all wearing the same color. They started coordinating ahead of time, picking up the phone and reaching out to figure out not only what they should wear, but also to check in with one another and make sure everyone in their group was doing well and feeling strong.

“Hey, we’re meeting on Wednesday, are you going to come?” says a cheerfully insistent voice over the phone line. If one falls behind, they’re missed — and there’s always someone lifting them up and encouraging them to come back and keep going. But this group of special women is inspiring more than just one another. They’re also shifting the way that wellness center Team Members think about connection and wellness as a whole, how communities are formed and how to give this organically grown sense of belonging to as many people as possible in the Zephyrhills community.

“It all started from this concept of these ladies working out together. It’s about keeping our clients engaged socially and part of something bigger than just ourselves. When they stay connected and we’re using what we can to help us be more of a light in the community — not just with the exercise, but with the social aspect,” says Casio Jones, Director of Wellness at AdventHealth Zephyrhills. “They’re more likely to be successful if they’re working out together, seeing how they fit into the group as a whole. That’s what whole-person health and wellness is really about.”

The Epidemic of Loneliness in America

According to recent studies, loneliness affects 25% to 60% of older Americans and puts millions of Americans 50 and over at risk of poor health from prolonged loneliness. Loneliness is almost as prevalent as obesity. In a survey of members of the AARP Medicare Supplement Plans, 27% to 29% were lonely, and about 9% were severely lonely. Among those representing the top 5% with the most chronic conditions, spending 5% of the healthcare dollar, loneliness rises to 55% of that population, half of whom suffer with severe loneliness.

Not only taking into account the effect on quality of life and overall satisfaction, loneliness is a health risk on par with smoking 15 cigarettes a day, shortening the average lifespan by as much as eight years. The more isolated people feel, the less happy they are, resulting in a decline in both brain function and overall physical health. 

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, more than half of lonely people miss having someone to laugh with. Their research also showed that just being together with someone is one of the biggest things people missed (52%), and 46% miss having a hug. Older people experiencing loneliness also miss simple everyday moments, such as sharing a meal (35%), holding hands (30%) or taking walks (32%). But thanks to the inspiring people at CREATION® Health Wellness Center at AdventHealth Zephyrhills, that’s all beginning to change.

Building the Program

We thought about women’s and men’s ministry, recreational and craft ideas, and we wanted to start with the top five communities in the area that don’t have a fitness facility, then expand it out to the wider area” says Wellness Director Casio Jones.

This new approach to creating social networks within the wellness center and introducing new clients to the facility in this way allows them to experience more formalized connections and see their place in something greater than themselves. It combats social isolation too, because there are pockets of groups whether they’re low income and lack transportation, or maybe they’re elderly and feeling isolated, being able to have this program means it’s more than just the physical aspect of getting healthy. It’s supporting the connections, the emotional and spiritual restoration that you get from being around other people and connecting. And you can’t overestimate the benefit of that when it comes to extending the healing ministry of Christ to a community.

The CREATION® Health Wellness Center at AdventHealth Zephyrhills is putting whole-person health care in action with how they take care of each and every client — in body, mind and spirit. 

Learn more about your local AdventHealth Community Benefit programs. 

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