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Mar 31, 2020

Well Connected with Amber Carroll 

"Well Connected is available to adults aged 60 and over who are interested in lifelong learning, support, fun, and engagement with a larger community.— Amber Carroll

Social isolation is a state of near-complete or the complete distancing of an individual, physically, psychologically, or both from their network of support.  During COVID19 and a new era of social distancing for everyone, many young people are experiencing what many older adults experience on a day-to-day basis. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean socially disconnecting – and there are opportunities to connect for older adults who are experiencing social isolation. 

In this episode, we will be talking to Amber Carroll of Well Connected, a telephone and online community made up of participants, presenters, staff, facilitators, and other volunteers who value being connected. Program activities include education, friendly conversation, and an assortment of classes and support groups for older adults – and all are accessible from the comfort of home. It's a creative way for our 'seniors' to learn new things, socialize, and make friends with the same interests. 

Well Connected members can play a game, learn a language, write a poem, go on a virtual tour, meditate, share gratitude, get support, and most importantly, connect and engage with others every day across the country. All groups are accessible by phone or online. Well Connected is a community service of Covia, and is free of charge to all participants and available to adults over the age of 60. 

Part One of Well Connected

In 2004, Well Connected began by putting together a conference line serving only six people. Fast forward to 2020, and over fifteen hundred people participate in the program across 46 states. That alone is a milestone, and from there, we can see the need for similar services for older adults.  

Small groups of 8 - 10 people get together with a common focus. A smaller group size is easier to manage and is more effective for group dynamics. This fosters a sense of belonging for people who join the group(s).

What's impressive about the Well Connected program is that they are leveraging the skills, time, and passion of the people in the community to meet the social and emotional needs of the older adults who may not have a large network of family and friends to rely on. And when you work out of love, the result is almost always successful, so it’s no wonder that Well Connected has been thriving over the years. 

"You know, being isolated in your home by yourself every day, day in and day out is like smoking close to a pack of cigarettes a day." - Melissa Batchelor (30:03 - 30:09) 

You can do a lot of things when you are in the program. There is a wide range of activities such as discussing brain health, trivia, word games, “arm chair” travel, and even museum tours. There are also Spanish programs available. 

Now, some of you might wonder how they can travel and do tours over the phone. Well, the solution is simple. For museum tours, the team will send handouts where you can find images or helpful visuals. And through a phone call, you will be guided accordingly.

Well Connected also encourages people to share their travel experiences. It doesn't matter if you traveled recently or decades ago. What matters most is that you share and even compare memories. Say, for example, you recently went to Paris. Other participants will ask if the same restaurant is still there, or generally, what changed since the last time they visited. 

Part Two of Well Connected

The Well Connected program offers high-quality programs for lifelong learning. They host an annual Creative Aging Symposium where they bring together world-class speakers in the area of creative aging. It's not just about a community of older people. It's about fostering genuine connections and creating a network using the available technology. 

“We really try to meet the needs of the community, and we access the community to meet those needs.” -  Amber Carroll (10:32 - 10:38)  

And speaking of technology, the Well Connected program is improving its conferencing system so that it can accommodate more people in the best way possible. 

Well Connected is a part of a bigger organization, Covia; an organization with a rich commitment to its community services and funds Well Connected so you can participate for free and reduce the negative health effects of social isolation.

How To Connect

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (‘96) and Master of Science in Nursing (‘00) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON). I truly enjoy working with the complex medical needs of older adults. I worked full-time for five years as FNP in geriatric primary care across many long-term care settings (skilled nursing homes, assisted living, home, and office visits) then transitioned into academic nursing in 2005, joining the faculty at UNCW SON as a lecturer. I obtained my Ph.D. in Nursing and a post-master's Certificate in Nursing Education from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing (’11) and then joined the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. My family moved to northern Virginia in 2015 and led to me joining the faculty at George Washington University (GW) School of Nursing in 2018 as a (tenured) Associate Professor where I am also the Director of the GW Center for Aging, Health, and Humanities. Find out more about her work at