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Combatting Loneliness: The Transformative Power of a Friendly Phone Call

Elevance Health Impact
June 20, 2024

Debbie Lessenberry looks forward to a weekly phone call that lifts her spirits; an event that provides support and hope during a lonely, distressing time. More than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are experiencing social isolation. Widowed after more than four decades of marriage, Lessenberry felt disconnected, isolated, and unsure about the future. As a Medicare member, she found solace and support from an unexpected source: her health insurance plan. The Member Connect program pairs associate volunteers with older adults who live alone and are managing health conditions. Currently, more than 400 associates are “phone pals” who have regular, friendly conversations with members in our affiliated health plans who are engaged in the program. The phone pals also promote health and wellness, such as helping members re-engage in their healthcare, connect to community organizations, and increase their physical activity. Member Connect, launched in 2017, exemplifies our whole health approach by addressing social isolation and loneliness. These are social drivers that take a toll on physical and mental health, leading to poorer health outcomes, higher rates of premature mortality, and higher healthcare costs. The program is making a significant impact on improving health: participants had 8% fewer hospital admissions and 43% fewer trips to the ER.

Listen as Lessenberry and her phone pal, Melody Smith, share their experiences combatting loneliness through Member Connect, and learn more from the program’s creator, Robin Caruso.

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