Category Archives: Social Isolation
“For elderly Americans, social isolation is especially perilous. Will machine companions fill the void?”
by Katie Engelhart
“It felt good to love again, in that big empty house. Virginia Kellner got the cat last November, around her ninety-second birthday, and now it’s always nearby. It keeps her company as she moves, bent over her walker, from the couch to the bathroom and back again. The walker has a pair of orange scissors hanging from the handlebar, for opening mail. Virginia likes the pet’s green eyes. She likes that it’s there in the morning, when she wakes up. Sometimes, on days when she feels sad, she sits in her soft armchair and rests the cat on her soft stomach and just lets it do its thing. Nuzzle. Stretch. Vibrate. Virginia knows that the cat is programmed to move this way; there is a motor somewhere, controlling things. Still, she can almost forget. ‘It makes you feel like it’s real,’ Virginia told me, the first time we spoke. ‘I mean, mentally, I know it’s not. But—oh, it meowed again!’
“‘She named the cat Jennie, for one of the nice ladies who work at the local Department of the Aging in Cattaraugus County, a rural area in upstate New York, bordering Pennsylvania.”
by Isobel Whitcomb
“When rock band R.E.M. belted out “Everybody hurts sometimes,” they weren’t singing about backaches or sprained ankles. They were, of course, referring to the intense pain our emotions can cause — like the pang of losing a cherished friend or the heaviness in your chest after a breakup. So why do we experience rejection and loss as literal heartache?
“The short answer: It helps us survive.
“Pain is a danger signal, said Geoff MacDonald, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. When you place your hand on a hot stove, for example, a network of neurons in your brain activates to send a message: Something is very wrong. ‘If you stub your toe, for a brief moment, your entire world is that toe,’ MacDonald told Live Science. ‘Pain is really good at disrupting attention and getting you singularly focused on making the bad thing stop.’
“From an evolutionary perspective, rejection is a really bad thing. For human ancestors, survival required a close social network, MacDonald said. ‘By cooperating, you can collect food better; you can protect against predators better,’ he said. ‘And obviously, if you’re not connected to other people, you’re going to have a hard time finding somebody to reproduce with.'”
“12-step programs reduce all three. What can we learn from them?”
by Sarah McKinney Gibson
“On March 23, 2021, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy was confirmed as the Surgeon General of the
For the past 11 years, I have been an active member of multiple 12-step programs. In meetings that take place in church basements and over Zoom, I have seen people from different generations and backgrounds come together to heal from loneliness and addiction.
“Millions of us are finding help in society’s shadows. Much could be learned from undertaking a national research study aimed at better understanding what happens in 12-step programs, and how they not only heal loneliness and addiction but bridge generational divides.
“During the pandemic — a time of strict generational separation — loneliness, alcohol consumption and drug use have all spiked. Murthy, a Next Avenue Influencer in Aging, is well positioned to connect the dots and seek solutions in unlikely places. Like 12-step programs, originated by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the 1930s.”
On January 14, 2021 ADvancing States sent out a call for information about how states are rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to people receiving home and community-based services and/or Older Americans Act services. Information about logistics plans, schedules, partnerships, and communications strategies were all welcomed. This resource (below) reflects the information states sent in response to the call and will be periodically updated as we receive more information.
Click on the above graphic to download the entire document to see so many ideas that have been developed to combat social isolation.