ARIZONA NEWS

Free Banner Health class in Sun City taught seniors how to safely find love and friends online

May 2, 2024, 4:05 AM

Senior isolation can worsen health issues, Banner Health says...

Loneliness can exacerbate seniors' health issues, which is why Banner Health tries to encourage them to socialize. (Pexels photo)

(Pexels photo)

PHOENIX — Senior isolation and loneliness can exacerbate health issues, which is why Banner Health held a dating class earlier in the week in the West Valley.

Visitors at the senior center in Sun City, a retirement community, attended a free dating class on Tuesday.

Jennifer Lawless, the director of the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center, said it was the first online dating class Banner Health’s Senior Center has ever offered.

“We just thought, ‘People are interested, so let’s try and help them do it safely and successfully,'” she told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “The other fun thing about it is it doesn’t have to be dating. It can be making friends, going on Meetup.”

The class taught students which dating and social websites are safe and reputable. It also taught seniors what to do when they meet someone online — and how to be safe when meeting people in the real world.

Part of the reason why Banner Health offered this class was to fight loneliness. It can be dangerous for older people, Lawless said.

Senior isolation can hurt people’s health, Banner Health leader says

Anxiety and depression come along with loneliness. But that’s not all; there are also physical health risks, Lawless said.

“Loneliness can, of course, make someone sad, but it can also increase the risk of dementia, which is huge, by 29%,” she said.

The consequences of social isolation can’t be understated, she added.

“It can increase the likelihood of developing heart disease, having a stroke, even early death,” Lawless said. “It’s amazing how important mental health is to our physical health, especially as we’re aging and perhaps we’re not getting out as much.”

For these reasons, the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center has in-person activities every day, she said. They also plan big events to encourage older Arizonans to spend face-to-face time together. However, the online dating class is a supplemental tool to help promote seniors to develop more social connections.

“We are having an in-person prom in June, so we still want people to get together here in person,” Lawless said.

Details are being ironed out at the moment, but the event will include snacks, dancing, photos and more.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Kate Ourada contributed to this report.

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Free Banner Health class in Sun City taught seniors how to safely find love and friends online