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UCSD students start program to combat senior loneliness

Posted at 11:36 PM, May 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-25 11:57:26-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The coronavirus pandemic is preventing many seniors in skilled nursing facilities from seeing their families. UC San Diego students are working to help combat their loneliness with their Sunshine 4 Seniors project.

Students would spend their weekends visiting seniors as part of a volunteer project before classes were canceled at UC San Diego. The pandemic halted their visits.

"We came up with this project, which was creating cards for seniors at St. Paul Senior Services," says student Olivia Michael.

The goal of the project is for students to "step in and fill the loneliness and isolation that the senior citizen communities are feeling, especially during this pandemic," says Morgan Montoya.

The students say loneliness in seniors can have damaging effects on the brain.

"Olivia and I are near-cognitive science majors," says Montoya. "Our majors really helped us to understand the problems that loneliness poses. With senior citizens having an abundance of isolation and loneliness, it can actually deregulate the brain and cause a progression of Alzheimer's or depression."

The Sunshine 4 Seniors project launched nearly a month ago. So far, more than 200 cards have been sent to seniors in skilled nursing facilities.

The students say there are thousands of seniors who are not allowed to see their loved ones during this time. They hope to spread some sunshine to as many seniors as they can.

"The goal is just to get as many people writing cards as possible," says Michael. "Any means that you have to do it, I just encourage you to get started."