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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

COVID isolation and the impact on our seniors this holiday season

Isolation can take a serious toll on your mental health and seniors are an especially vulnerable group. That is why some are stepping up to help.

SAN DIEGO — Social isolation has been dubbed "the new silent killer" and acknowledged by the World Health Organization as a public health crisis. And no one is more vulnerable than our seniors. That's why some community members have stepped up to do something special.

Tens of thousands of seniors will have no visitors this holiday season thanks to COVID restrictions.

Take it from St. Paul's Senior Services.

"Due to the limited visitations we have seen a decline in families being able to come," said Kim Stratman, St. Paul's Senior Services.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, around 60% of long-term care residents never receive a visitor.

If that statistic isn't sad enough, consider it may be just the tip of the iceberg during a pandemic.

"With the new regulations, it is limiting what families and residents are wanting to do during this time," said Stratman.

RELATED: Going It Alone: Here are mental health services available for those struggling

So St. Paul's is doing something special. Not only are the residents getting a traditional Thanksgiving lunch, but they're also having their own version of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"Our activities team make this whole cart and will take it floor to floor meet with residents, they get to participate. It is so much fun, they love it." 

Derek Quackenbush with the San Diego Seniors Community Foundation knows how important fun activities are to help combat depression and loneness.

"Not having any social interaction is like smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of its impact it has on your health," said Quackenbush.

That's why the goal of the foundation's "No Seniors Alone Initiative" is to provide social programs for those 60-years-old and older. 

"Were asking organizations to come to us with grant requests for ways you are addressing social isolation," said Quackenbush.

The No Senior Alone initiative has already raised $200,000 to be distributed in grants to organizations supporting isolated seniors across the county.

The San Diego Seniors Community Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) working to ensure every local senior has someone they can turn to and trust.

As we close out 2020 and enter into the holiday season, many people are isolated from family and friends because of COVID-19. We will explore the impact of isolation on mental health in our series Going It Alone.

We’d also like to hear from you if you're Going It Alone this holiday season. 

If you want to share your story or have us address a specific topic, please send an email to yourstories@kfmb.com and add Going It Alone in the subject line.

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RELATED: Struggling with isolation as a result of COVID-19