DANVILLE -- Whether it's feeling isolated or coping with an illness or reeling from the loss of a loved one, senior citizens can face a lot of stress.
So since May, the Town of Danville and Discovery Counseling, with a grant from Chevron, has lent an ear for seniors to talk about what is on their minds, providing free counseling sessions to them. Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich said staff had noticed that some seniors become more reserved, which could be a sign of internal stress.
"Personally, just being around long enough in Danville, you observe various groups," Arnerich said. "It was just becoming obvious that there was a lot of stress in the community."
Danville-based Discovery Counseling Center became interested in offering these services after one of its therapists attended a conference on suicide prevention last year and learned there is a higher rate of suicide among senior citizens than the national average, especially among men older than 85, said Kathy Chiverton, the agency's executive director.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate for all ages in the United States was 12 per 100,000 in 2009. For people ages 65 to 74, it was 14 per 100,000; for ages 75 to 84, it was 15.7 and for age 85 and older, it was 15.6.
This was eye-opening for Chiverton and her agency. They do a lot of work with suicide prevention for teens, she said, but to learn that the older adult population has a higher rate led Discovery Counseling think of ways to serve them.
"Our goal is to increase access and take away any barriers," Chiverton said. The funding from Chevron is for a year.
Arnerich, who serves on the nonprofit Discovery's board, suggested the town's senior center, as it was being remodeled, as a place where seniors could seek support in a familiar area.
Discovery Counseling psychologist Frances Rapoport, who has a full schedule, reserves one day a week for this program. She offers 10 free sessions of counseling to seniors, Rapoport said. She's seen about 20 different people so far. How often she sees them varies. For some it's once a week, for others, it's twice a week.
The topics vary from client to client, Rapoport said. Many are dealing with issues related to their own illnesses and pain. For others it's the stress that comes with taking care of a parent or dealing with adult children who have moved back home. They are all just looking for some support.
The senior population is also growing in Danville. In 2010, 14.4 percent of Danville's 42,039 residents were 65 or older -- 6,053 people, according to the U.S. Census. In 2000, they represented 10.3 percent of Danville's population of 41,715. With the way the economy is, residents may age in place, Arnerich said.
"It's a demographic that is going to age even more," he said.
For Discovery Counseling and Rapoport it is the first time they've partnered with a company and a municipal agency to provide such a service.
"I've worked in private practice, and I have to say this is pretty unique," Rapoport said.
To make an appointment, call the Discovery Counseling Center at 925-837-0505 and ask about the senior program.