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211's 'Sunshine Calls' helping stamp out loneliness in Palm Beach County, Treasure Coast

'It wakes me up, and it makes me feel happy for the day,' Louise Bing says
Posted at 3:35 PM, May 10, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Loneliness is considered an epidemic in the United States with the U.S. surgeon general comparing the health impacts to smoking daily cigarettes.

But the 211 Helpline is doing its part to reverse the pains of loneliness, especially in seniors, for years.

So-called "Sunshine Calls" are giving the elderly a daily check-in they can count on.

The calls come like clockwork every day for Louise Bing, 83, who receives a call each morning. She's been starting every day just like this for about 20 years.

Louise Bing shares how the daily calls brighten her day.
Louise Bing shares how the daily calls brighten her day.

This daily check is a "Sunshine Call" — a program by 211 that makes sure people link Bing are doing OK and not feeling lonely.

"It wakes me up, and it makes me feel happy for the day," Bing said. "They have a very nice way of saying just enough to make sure you're OK and they sense usually if you need to talk."

On most days, her Doberman named Sammie is plenty of good company, despite otherwise living alone.

"I've lived by myself for most of my life. I was very much in love with someone who went into the Vietnam War, and it was horrible," Bing said. "I think when there is someone you're really in love with, you're never really going to be in love again. So, I've lived alone since then."

But that "Sunshine Call" makes sure loneliness doesn't catch up to her.

The U.S. surgeon general said in a report released this month that loneliness is now a nationwide epidemic.

US surgeon general says loneliness is as deadly as smoking

Scripps News

US surgeon general says loneliness is as deadly as smoking

Elina Tarkazikis
11:22 AM, May 02, 2023

It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety and premature death with health impacts now comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

"(The daily calls) may be the only outside interaction a person has all day," 211 spokeswoman Patrice Schroeder said.

The report on loneliness further confirms the benefits of the "Sunshine Calls" program, which Schroeder said calls 600 seniors each day from Palm Beach County, Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast.

It also gives seniors like Bing peace of mind as they end their days.

Patrice Schroeder discusses the benefits of "Sunshine Calls" for residents who live alone.
Patrice Schroeder discusses the benefits of "Sunshine Calls" for residents who live alone.

If Bing doesn't answer her call in the morning, 211 has a list of contacts to reach out to before contacting law enforcement for a wellness check.

"I don't ever have to worry if something happens to me what's going to happen to Sammie," Bing said.

So while her family, including Sammie, might be small, she said the "Sunshine Calls" make her feel a part of something bigger.

"They take you in," Bing said. "It's kind of part of a large family."

Click here if you want to sign up for "Sunshine Calls" or have a loved one who you think could benefit from a daily check-in.

It's also not just for seniors, but homebound, disabled or isolated family caregivers caring for another adult family member.