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The loneliness epidemic: 3 perspectives on how to combat it




Last week, we discussed the meaning of loneliness, a national epidemic as stated in the 2023 report by the U.S. Surgeon General. What can we do about it? Let’s look at the issue from three perspectives: the individual, the resources and the community. 


Individuals: Be More Us is a UK movement of people and organizations that encourage small moments of connection. The organization provides the following suggestions to individuals. 


Reach out to old friends. Use social media, text or a phone call. Hearing someone’s voice is a personal connection. So often that friend is thrilled to hear from you.


Make time for new connections. That might involve joining some local groups, taking a class or getting involved with some community activities. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and a way to bond with one another. 

Strike up a conversation. Be More Us offers several ways to make that happen.


  • Allocate 10 minutes of each week to phone a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. 

  • Ask a friend or family member to go out with you for a drink. That can be for coffee, a cup of tea or another kind of drink. 

  • Write a letter. Consider writing to someone who has made a difference in your life. That could be a teacher, a friend or a parent. 

  • Join a club. Find folks who do what you like to do and celebrate your hobbies and passions. That could be joining a book group, painting class, investment club, playing chess or fly fishing. 

  • Try something new. It’s a great way to connect with new people and make new friends. That could be learning Spanish, weaving, joining a rock and roll group, playing the guitar and more. 

  • Embrace other generations. Many have friends who are the same age who may become ill or even die. Consider connecting to a younger generation with opportunities for enriching, informative and inspiring relationships. 


Here are some resources that foster such intergenerational connections. 


Resources: Sages and Seekers is an intergenerational program that is a collaboration between adults (60+), the Sages and students (15 to 24), the Seekers. The Sages have an opportunity to share their life experiences with an interested listener, engaging them in life review and generativity. The Seekers have a nonjudgmental listener they can talk to about what is happening in their lives while also gaining listening, interviewing, writing and public speaking skills.” For a schedule and upcoming programs, see https://sagesandseekers.org/programs/ 


Eldera is a global virtual village where generations come together to connect, learn from each other, have fun and create a better future. Young people (ages 15 to 18) are connected with vetted older mentors (60+ years old) for weekly virtual conversations and activities. The No. 1 benefit reported by mentors and mentees is joy. Everyone feels valued, supported and inspired. A Los Angeles-based mentor may connect to a mentee in Kyoto. 


 CoGenerate is a nonprofit organization that serves as a catalyst to change our nation from being generations apart to generations together. They envision a world where older and younger people join forces to solve problems, bridge generational divides and enhance mutual relationships. CoGenerate supports and builds leadership, innovators, organizations and funders to scale their work and sustain it. Note the CEO position is shared by leaders of two different generations. 


Communities: The Village is a good example. It is a grassroots membership organization that creates a sense of community for older adults to enhance their opportunity to continue to live independently and stay connected to their communities. Members often provide services such as transportation, technology assistance, running errands to the pharmacy and grocery store. Activities might include book groups, lecture series, debates, hiking, current events discussions and dine-arounds. Each Village reflects the needs, opportunities, and culture of the respective geographic areas. Engagement with the Village community reduces isolation, increases independence as well as enhancing purpose in life. We have three Villages in our area: South Bay Village at http://www.sbvill.org/; Westside Pacific Villages at https://thewpv.org/ and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Village https://www.peninsulavillage.net/ Look for a Village in your area at the Village to Village Network at https://www.vtvnetwork.org/


Finally, each one of us is a resource. If we know someone who lives alone and possibly lonely, reach out with a friendly telephone call or invite that person to join you. Everyone wants to matter. Each one of us can make a difference in someone else’s lives. Spread the gift of kindness. It’s never been a better time. 


Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Helendenn@gmail.com. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulAgingCommunity

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