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F.I.S.H. assists island seniors struggling with isolation

By Staff | Apr 23, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Anthony Morales, of F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva, practices COVID-19 safety measures while delivering groceries.

For many seniors, the mandated practice of social distancing can lead to isolation.

F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva reported that it recognizes senior isolation as an existing issue, but during the current health crisis there is concern about many seniors feeling a greater sense of loneliness. Not only is social isolation a problem for mental wellness, but it can also impact physical health.

Continuing its work to battle senior isolation, F.I.S.H. is making an extra effort to stay connected with older islanders by offering daily well-check phone calls, adding cheery notes of kindness with their Meals-by-F.I.S.H. and food pantry deliveries, and even offering video chats.

“At F.I.S.H. we’re concerned with ensuring our senior population is still socializing and feel connected to their community through a variety of programs,” Executive Director Alicia Tighe said. “Now, some of those programs are on pause, but we’re adapting others to make sure our seniors are not becoming totally isolated.

“F.I.S.H. and our volunteers, working remotely, are making calls daily to island seniors, delivering their groceries, bringing them hot meals, and connecting with them through little notes and acts of kindness,” she added.

The following is a story of a current F.I.S.H. client:

“My name is Betty and I’ve been living on the island for over 30 years. Now, I guess I’m what people think of as an ‘old lady.’ Many of my friends either come and go seasonally or are no longer on the island so, living on my own, it’s become harder to do some of the things I’ve always done.

Starting last year I’ve began using the F.I.S.H. Food Pantry to help with some groceries because I am on a fixed income. I don’t really eat much, but I do visit at least three times a week so I can see the volunteers and staff to say hello. They’re all my friends there and it’s nice to get out of the house to see them.

When F.I.S.H. explained to me that the food pantry wouldn’t be open for inside shopping and that we had to request food from a distance, it made me really sad. I always looked forward to my pantry days. I don’t go out much or visit with friends, so this whole distancing thing makes me feel very alone.”

In addition to grocery deliveries, Betty is now receiving hot meals through the Meals-by-F.I.S.H. program – and daily reassurance calls from one of her favorite volunteers who calls to socialize and check on her well-being, officials reported. While neither allows for close interaction, they give her something to look forward to daily. And, through the kindheartedness of volunteers, community members and local children, Betty receives a friendly note or welcome wave with deliveries.

“While connecting from a distance can’t replace one-on-one interaction, we’ve heard back from Betty expressing her gratitude for the ‘extra attention’ she is receiving,” President Maggi Feiner said. “Sometimes, it’s simple acts of kindness that make all the difference to those in need.”

The Walk-In Center and Food Pantry hours will be staggered the next month due to construction.

For more information, contact Tighe at 239-472-0404 or alicia@fishofsancap.org.