Spectrum Healthcare Partners and the YMCA of Southern Maine partnering to help bring a healthier you!

March 11, 2019 02:20 PM

Spectrum Healthcare Partners and the YMCA of Southern Maine share many of the same values, one of the biggest being promoting healthy communities. We have teamed up to bring you health tips, quarterly videos and much more with the hopes of reaching the communities of Maine to help others get out and be active, healthy, and enjoy everything this state has to offer.

Our first video visits the important topic of social isolation. Winter is a time where people may not want to be outdoors or be as active as they typically are when the weather is more enjoyable. That, combined with other factors such as loss of mobility, health issues, financial struggles, transportation issues, and more, can create a major problem that the YMCA is trying to combat with its various programs.

Helen Breña, CEO of the YMCA of Southern Maine, said she was surprised to hear that social isolation can become fatal, and wants others to know what to look for and how to help.


Why is social isolation a health risk?

In short, because it can be deadly. Experts believe that isolation increases mortality risk as much as smoking. They say it is TWICE as dangerous as obesity. Other effects include:

  • Impaired immune function leading to type II diabetes and heart disease
  • Increased risk of dementia
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety, depression, substance abuse and other mental health challenges
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Poor recovery from illness or injury

Does social isolation only affect older adults?

No, social isolation can affect people of all ages. If a person is cut off from others, for any reason, they can experience social isolation and the negative impact on health that this can cause. Many things can weaken a person’s social network, leading to isolation, including illness, bullying, racism, trouble with communication, and more.

What risk are Mainers at for social isolation?

  • 17% of Mainers over the age of 5 live with at least one disability
  • Maine has the highest median age in the country and Maine’s senior poverty rate is above average
  • Up to 43% of Maine seniors are isolated from family and friends
  • Two out of three Mainers are overweight or obese
  • Maine has the highest incidence of school bullying in the country
  • 40% of adults say they are lonely, up from 20% in the 1980s

Ways to connect

  • Facetime or Skype with a loved one
  • Volunteer – Your local nonprofit, YMCA or United Way can help connect you with a meaningful job
  • Attend a community center like your local YMCA
  • Sign up for Meals on Wheels – in addition to providing a healthy lunch, volunteers provide daily check ins and conversation to their clients
  • Engage, or reengage in a hobby

Ways to support loved ones who are isolated

  • Help with transportation to church or temple, the community center, etc.
  • Notify neighbors
  • Investigate adaptive technologies. Southern Maine Agency on Aging can help with this
  • Encourage hearing and vision tests
  • Offer to help caregivers for an afternoon – they can suffer from isolation too