Loneliness is a silent killer facing seniors in Collier County. According to the Community Foundation of Collier County, 28 percent of Collier County’s population is 65 years old or older. Twenty-four percent live in poverty, and more than 18,000 or 21 percent of seniors live alone, with women greatly out-numbering men.
With statistics like these, it’s hard to ignore the need. To help combat loneliness and other issues facing seniors, the Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) will host a grand opening of Collier County’s first senior center this March. The new center, which offers social services, meals, activities, education and companionship to seniors, is located at 5025 Castello Drive.
Recently, the Leadership Coalition on Aging presented the results of the “Naples Area Senior Needs Assessment” conducted by Florida Gulf Coast University Department of Social Work. One of the key themes presented from the study was that older adults feel alone and desire companionship and socialization. They also pin pointed the geographical areas in Naples where seniors live compared to their particular needs such as loneliness, income level, transportation and other factors “Research has shown that older adults who participate in senior center programs can learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease and experience measurable improvements in their physical, social, emotional and mental well-being,” states Dr. Jaclynn Faffer, president and CEO of JFCS. “Compared with their peers, participants in senior centers have higher levels of health, social interaction and life satisfaction.”
A $10,000 Community Impact Grant from the Community Foundation has helped pay for the kitchen at the senior center. The kitchen will disperse hot meals to seniors during weekly and monthly gatherings. During these events, intellectually enjoyable and stimulating programming will also be offered. Computer courses, and a robust arts and music program is also planned for the future.
“The Foundation analyzes each grant request to determine where our ‘unrestricted’ dollars would be best suited,” says Eileen Connolly-Keesler, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County. “By capturing this information on senior needs we were able to be at the forefront of assistance.”
During the senior center’s soft opening in January, 15 participants were anticipated for the first scheduled lunch event in a café that can hold 80 people. Fifty seniors attended.
The Community Impact Fund was established to assure charitable dollars could be used towards assisting local nonprofits establish vital programs and initiatives. Each quarter, grant applications are received from nonprofits that are seeking funding within specific priority areas. To view a grant schedule and apply, visit cfcollier.org.