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UC Irvine's ASSIST Program: Assisting and Supporting Socially Isolated Seniors via Telephone

Last Updated: April 22, 2020


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the California mandate to stay at home, our already vulnerable older adult population is being forced to further isolate. While being in the best interest of individual and public health, this isolation may have longer term detrimental outcomes. The National Institute on Aging states that, “research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease, and even death.” Through funds received by UC Irvine’s HRSA Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program, we have created the ASSIST (Assisting & Supporting Socially Isolated Seniors via Telephone) Program to help keep these possible repercussions at bay. 

The program involves pairing volunteer medical and nursing students with homebound seniors within Orange County through partnerships with Meals on Wheels OC and Front Porch assisted living communities. As the program grows, the team hopes to expand to other interprofessional health students such as public health and pharmacy students. In order to best connect with their partnered older adult, students will check in on a daily, twice weekly, or weekly basis as needed through phone or video calls. Prior to beginning regular contact with their respective paired older adult(s), students will participate in a required orientation and training led by the UCI Geriatrics Department faculty which will cover guidelines, protocols, proper phone call etiquette, and a review of COVDI-19 and community resources to share with their older adults as needed. Furthermore, a repository has been created which contains these resources, FAQs, and tools and information to support success. 


Neika Saville, MEd, University of California, Irvine (nsaville@hs.uci.edu)