Supporting seniors with chronic conditions in Florida

Committed to supporting and improving quality of life for seniors in Florida, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Florida is investing $15,000 in the expansion of Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay’s Health Buddies program. Founded in 1984, Seniors in Service is a nonprofit organization that provides solutions to community challenges by engaging volunteers aged 55 and older.1

The Health Buddies program helps reduce preventable hospital readmissions for individuals living with chronic conditions through phone support. College students who are training for health care careers are paired with program participants for 12 weeks. During this time, Health Buddies communicate via a phone or video call for half an hour at least twice a week. Health Buddy volunteers receive training that covers topics including ice breakers, HIPAA-compliance, nutrition and exercise.

Calls are used to empower program participants to self-manage their health and live independently. Participants who require support after the 12 weeks are referred to ongoing Senior Companion Services or other community resources. Each year, Seniors in Service engages more than 1500 volunteers for active volunteering to address community needs. It additionally advocates for seniors’ needs and tracks trends of aging populations.

UnitedHealthcare’s contribution will help the Health Buddies program expand its services to adults living in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. The goals of this expansion include:

  • Expanding the number of individuals served through Health Buddies
  • Reducing the number of individuals who require emergency medical interventions for a chronic condition
  • Reducing the level at which individuals report experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety and loneliness

Health Buddies is recognized as one of eleven programs nationwide granted the Generations United Program of Distinction Certification for meeting the highest standards of intergenerational effectiveness, program sustainability and capacity to achieve targeted outcomes. 

The Health Buddies program’s impact on the aging community is backed by research. Approximately one in 10 adults experience social isolation.2 This percentage increases with age as well as for people with chronic illnesses. Individuals over 65 who have a chronic illness may experience a reduction in social interactions due to physical symptoms that impede social activities, stigma surrounding their condition or a lack of energy which prevents them from attending events. Research shows that loneliness and a lack of a social support system can negatively impact self-confidence related to independent living.3 This challenge is prevalent in Tampa Bay which is situated in Hillsborough County, home to over 225,000 residents aged 65 and over as of 2021.4

When analyzing the Health Buddies’ methodology, studies further show that seniors with chronic conditions who create goals with health care professionals experience positive changes in pain management, physical activity and adherence to a healthy lifestyle.5

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Florida remains continually committed to improving the health and well-being of seniors and individuals living with chronic conditions. 

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