Empath Partners in Care (EPIC) is helping local LGBTQ elders say hello to improved wellbeing.

The Tampa Bay area is a diverse region with many residents over the age of 50. However, the vast majority of services for the LGBTQ community are for younger people. Through the Generations program, EPIC is aiming to fill that gap with offerings for the unique needs of these elders, such as Friendly Caller.

“Many of our services are aimed at younger folks. EPIC Generation’s Friendly Caller program is an opportunity to reach out to the LGBTQ elders in our community,” says Susan Talbott, LGBTQ Community Support Specialist for EPIC.

Social isolation affects one in five elder adults. LGBTQ elders are twice as likely to not be partnered or married and living alone. An alarming 76% worry about what is going to happen to them when they are ready for assisted living or a skilled nursing facility.

“This generation is more likely to be estranged from their families and they were not adopting children yet,” says Talbott. “Many developed a chosen family. This family is often the same age and may be dwindling in number.”

As LGBTQ elders transition from home to a care facility, they may “go back in the closet” out of fear of being shunned and/or lack of programming geared toward LGBTQ people. The outreach of the Friendly Caller program can help ensure they continue to have the social support of like-minded individuals no matter where they are.

A few times a week participants will receive a call from a volunteer they have been matched with. Calls can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as the conversation is enriching to both parties. It’s a chance to share meaningful dialogue, build friendship and offer mutual social support.

Volunteer callers can also provide information on other support services if there is a concern or a need is identified. EPIC Generations can help LGBTQ elders find affirming healthcare providers, transportation, access to Meals on Wheels and referrals to other community resources.

Loneliness and isolation have been shown to increase the chance of morbidity and other chronic conditions. Ongoing socialization, can be an effective means of preventative care and help elders spend more years at home.

“It’s a matter of aging well physically, mentally and emotionally,” says Talbott. “We all enjoy a sense of community and aim to restore that to some of these folks.”

Anyone age 55 and older can sign up to receive calls from a caring volunteer. Interested individuals can request a paper form, enroll over the phone by calling (727) 328-5524 or fill out the online form.

There is no age requirement for volunteers, however individuals should expect to commit to the program for at least four months. Volunteers will complete an initial orientation to Empath Health and additional training on program specifics, including privacy and setting boundaries and how to ask open-ended questions.

If you or a loved one may be interested in receiving calls or becoming a volunteer, visit MyEpic.org/Generations for more information.