According to former Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, loneliness poses real threats to both mental and physical health, including depression and anxiety, addictions, heart disease and dementia. His book “Together” reveals that loneliness affects about one-quarter of adult Americans, and “The reality is that loneliness is a natural signal that our body gives us, similar to hunger, thirst. And that’s how important human connection is.” Such is the public health crisis, that in the UK the government has appointed a Minister of Loneliness to help combat the problem.
One of the best ways to overcome loneliness is to volunteer. AARP Foundation Experience Corps reports that 85% of volunteers felt their lives had improved through their volunteering efforts.
Here are some suggestions and resources gleaned from Val Walker’s ground-breaking book “400 Friends and No One to Call” subtitled “Breaking Through Isolation and Building Community.”
- Be patient and compassionate. It takes time and understanding to build solid relationships.
- Cast a wide net for meeting new people. It takes a lot of “nos” to get to a “yes”.
- Stay open-minded and not too fixated on who fits your “tribe”. You might be surprised who welcomes you into their world.
- If volunteering, look for opportunities to combine volunteering with socializing and avoid volunteering that is isolating (like stuffing envelopes).
- Have a “calling card” with your contact information.
- Go to newcomers groups or network meet ups (meetup.com) to meet people who are eager to build new relationships.
- Consider “house sharing”. One of the many websites for older women is silvernest.com.
- AARP’s website for fighting isolation, connect2affect.org, has many evidence-based suggestions to help people get more involved in their communities.
- For women living in New York City or Long Island, visit ttnwomen.org.