Nonprofit Combats Senior Isolation as COVID-19 Pauses Bucket List Fulfillment

By on May 6, 2020
Isolation

According to MedicareAdvantage.com, senior isolation is poised to become one of the most serious health issues faced by older Americans. Some 18 percent of adults age 65 and older in the United States live alone, and 43 percent report feeling lonely on a regular basis. Senior isolation prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was a major concern but it is now even more so.

Webb Weiman, the founder of a nonprofit organization based in California called My Jump, would typically be helping seniors fulfill their bucket list wishes. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, these wishes included taking grandmothers skydiving or World War II veterans up in a hot air balloon ride. The staff is now spending their time checking in on those individuals whose bucket list wishes were achieved. They are also reaching out to their communities as a basic check-in to see how all the residents are holding up during these even more lonely and secluded times.

“I try to make sure that they have everything they need, and if they feel up for it, encourage them to take walks and stay active, including suggesting various exercises they can do in their own living spaces,” said Weiman.

“Since we’re not busy fulfilling bucket list wishes, the least we can do is pick up the phone and check-in with the people our organization serves. As you get older, the desire to reach out and socialize diminishes and a lot of our residents are basically waiting for the phone to ring, hoping it’s their children or grandchildren. They’re usually pretty surprised and super appreciative when they hear it’s us who’s calling.”

Prior to the pandemic, every bucket list wish fulfilled was a life changer where the My Jump staff witnessed breakthroughs with isolation, depression, and even PTSD. My Jump’s first participant went skydiving on her 90th birthday which was on July 6, 2011. Her name is Estelle Eisenberg, and Weiman has celebrated every birthday with her since. On July 6, 2020, when Estelle turns 99, Weiman plans to be there so he can help pick out the cake and blow out the candles!

Not all bucket list wishes have been skydiving or racecar driving, however. Goldie Jacoby, now 82, wrote and recorded a book on her home computer called “What Holocaust?” Her dream was to re-record her book using better equipment so she could turn it into an audio download for the rest of the world to hear. In November 2017, My Jump helped turn Jacoby’s dream into a reality and facilitated a premiere event at the Tolerance Education Center in Rancho Mirage, California. As a Holocaust survivor, she has dedicated her life to teaching today’s youth about the atrocities she witnessed and embodies a fierce advocate towards the prevention of bullying in our schools.

For 20 years, Mary Bartley expressed her desire to own a purple Harley Davidson. Unfortunately, that dream never came to fruition, but the desire to ride one never went away. In 2018, My Jump threw a 90th birthday party for Bartley where over 100 family and friends were present to witness her hop on a purple Harley with the wind blowing through her hair. Bartley even wore a leather jacket and large purple sunglasses as she sped down the highway with her fellow bikers.

Two special seniors from Boston have not had the chance to fulfill their bucket list wish quite yet. Earlier this year, Beverly McGowan and Jean Donahue had been selected to go to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Oregon, which is internationally recognized as the world’s largest outdoor quilt show. Originally scheduled for June 2020, the in-person event had to be postponed, but this year’s show has been reimagined as a virtual gathering. The two best friends will continue quilting together each week until they are able to travel to Oregon next year.

Looking to the future, Weiman remarks, “You know that typical ‘I can’t wait to get out of the house’ feeling? Well, that’s how I feel about restarting the program. Once people get a chance to start living again, and I’m talking about seniors in their 80s and 90s, who knows what they’ll want to do!”

My Jump is a nonprofit organization that helps seniors achieve what’s left on their bucket list and highlights those special seniors who continue to live extraordinary and inspirational lives. To learn more about My Jump, visit myjump.org.

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Nonprofit Combats Senior Isolation as COVID-19 Pauses Bucket List Fulfillment