Elder abuse is widely underreported with isolation being a risk factor in abuse and neglect.
On Saturday, hundreds of volunteers kicked off Elder Abuse Prevention Month by paying local seniors a visit and giving them the gift of time.
One local senior, Enrique Menchaca, says that every visit makes his day.
“The social interaction is important to those of us that are stuck inside,” he said. “The meal is great but the social interaction is a bit of a gift, a break in the day. I enjoy it.”
Menchaca is wheelchair-bound. He lost mobility after having trouble with his ankle.
“The biggest challenge is mobility, of course. It’s hard for me to get around,” said Menchaca, who added that he’d be on his own if it weren’t for the community. “If you're not positive, it's kind of dark, and hopeless. I don't allow myself. I just think, this is all temporary, it is going to come to an end, it is going to get better.”
That’s where the volunteers come in. They’re participating the Adopt a Senior program. Each volunteer is paired with a senior, visiting them in their homes and spending much-needed time.
“The biggest issue is isolation,” volunteer Tianna Dokes said. “A lot of our seniors live alone, so our volunteers that they interact with, are the only people they come in contact with each day. This one-on-one interaction really helps combat the isolation they face.”
Tianna Dokes works with Meals on Wheels. She’s also a volunteer, giving her time where it’s needed.
“They are met with someone who wants to spend time with them, give them that interaction that they are lacking on a day-to-day basis,” she said.
It’s all in an effort by Adult Protective Services, Catholic Charities, Meals on Wheels, and other organizations to help eliminate isolation of the elderly, something experts say is the greatest fear of growing old.
“They are truly grateful,” Dokes said. “We send out cards for holidays, try to give them daily gifts, and they appreciate it and show their gratitude.”
For Menchaca, the visits mean the world. And this week’s card serves as an affirmation, serving as a reminder of the strength of the community supporting him.