For 82-year-old Audrey, having someone to spend time with means everything.

“The only thing I wish I could have is a friend — a real friend,” Audrey says. “I’m losing those close to me, which is what happens in the aging process.”

Since 1976, New York's nonprofit DOROT has served the Jewish community and beyond, helping Audrey and other seniors feel less alone.

“It’s about being able to share experiences with one another, and building a friendship.”

Prisoners in their own homes

“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard from older adults whose social circles have been reduced so significantly, who tell me they're so grateful for the opportunity DOROT gives them to meet with people of all ages and be part of something,” says DOROT executive director Mark Meridy. “In some cases, if it weren’t for our Friendly Visiting Program, they would really have no one to talk to.”

Studies find social isolation can, in fact, lead to reduced immunity and higher levels of depression. It's also been linked to early onset dementia and premature death.

An aging population

“Addressing the issue of social isolation needs to become a critical priority within the aging network,” Meridy explains.

“The number of people over the age of 85 is projected to rise from 6.3 million to 14.6 million over the next 25 years. In today’s society, when people retire at 65 or 70, many will have another 20 or 30 years to live — but we have no opportunity to engage them in a meaningful way."

Making a difference

Whether delivering meals, running errands or providing transportation to medical appointments, volunteers play a crucial role.

“The people who volunteer with DOROT are caring, compassionate, and they’re good listeners,” says Meridy. “A typical visit can be anything from sitting with the individual and speaking about life experiences to taking a walk in the park, or going and having a cup of coffee.

“It’s about being able to share experiences with one another, and building a friendship.”