Valley seniors face isolation, food insecurity and housing challenges
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — A new partnership between the United Way and Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley hopes to level the playing field when it comes to seniors in the region and the challenges that affect them, which it says are sometimes hidden.
- United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley have released an action plan to help seniors
- According to statistics provided by the organizations, 93% have had trouble getting groceries because of money or other barriers such as transportation or business hours
- The action plan hopes to solve concrete things such as transportation and health issues, and less visible items such as isolation
The challenges include housing, access to community spaces, food security, health care and safety. The partnership also hopes to combat more subtle things such as ageism and sense of social inclusion.
Carmen Bell, director of Aging at the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, said solving the problems can help others, as well.
"We just want everybody to feel like this is a place they want to be," Bell said. "It's not just about the cars and buses — it's about everybody who's on the road."
"It's really about making sure...that no one's left behind, that we are addressing the needs of all people as best we can, to make sure that they feel like they're a part of a community that wants to hold them and keep them in their midst."Carmen Bell, director of Healthy Aging at the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley
The full text of the action plan is available on its own dedicated website, and spans 32 pages.
It includes statistics that paint a lonely picture for seniors in the Valley. The brochure cites statistics from institutions such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and universities, as well as research from the United Way, which is responsible for the direction of the action plan.
Hardships for many seniors in the Valley
The action plan states that one in three seniors (those 65 and older) say they lack companionship, one in four feel isolated, and 93% of seniors in the Valley experienced "limitations on grocery store items and hours of operation."
For each category of the reported problems seniors face, the action plan lists planned solutions. For example: wellness checks, food assistance, 24/7 shelters for seniors and financial assistance.
"It's really about making sure that there's access to the things that people need to age successfully," Bell said. "That there's equitable and affordable resources in terms of health care and transportation, and that we make a concerted effort to make sure that we're being inclusive, so that no one's left behind, that we are addressing the needs of all people as best we can, to make sure that they feel like they're a part of a community that wants to hold them and keep them in their midst."
According to Age-Friendly Lehigh Valley, people 65 and older make up 15% of the Lehigh Valley's population — which is higher than the 13% nationwide. The organization also says it expects the senior population in the region to grow to 22% by 2040.