Not only is the United States in the midst of a pandemic, but we are also in the midst of an epidemic… a loneliness epidemic. Over half of Americans, prior to Covid-19, said they felt alone at least some or all of the time. Everyone feels lonely at some time or another, but younger generations feel it more, as noted by the statistics below.
Below are loneliness scores by generation:
- 2% of Baby boomers – born between 1946 – 1964
- 47% of Generation X – born between 1954 – 1979
- 7% Millenials (Generation Y) – born between 1980 – 1995
- 9% Generation Z – born between 1996 -2009
The practice of social distancing has proven to slow down the spread of infectious diseases like Covid-19. Here are some of the recommended methods Americans have put into practice to social distance.
- Maintain six feet between you and others
- Avoid public transportation
- No non-essential travel
- If possible, work from home
- No large social gatherings
Social isolation and loneliness frequently co-exist and are very common in older adults. Loneliness is a subjective feeling, while social isolation or distancing is defined by the level and frequency of social interactions.
It is essential to find balance in physical activity, sleep, and social interaction. Social distancing does not have to equate to social isolation. Here are some tips to feel connected to others during social distancing.
- What are your vital connections? These are connections that you view as essential to your health, mental and physical, wellbeing and quality of life. These connections could be family, neighbors, friends, and work associates.
- Make sure your contact information is current. Phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing addresses are essential for vital connections.
- What are your resources for staying in touch? Use a cell phone for FaceTime chat rather than a simple phone call. Seeing another person’s face without the need for a mask will help you feel more connected.
- If you have a computer, see if there is an online blog or group you can connect to. Again, without a mask!
- Here is an idea for the kids. A walkie-talkie set is a fun way for them to stay connected to their friends.
- A daily schedule enables us to stay on track and to feel engaged. For example, plan to call a different neighbor each day, call a child or parent. These scheduled contacts will help you get through the pandemic and allow you to feel good about being proactive.
- Make an effort to stay healthy. A lack of sleep and exercise contribute to feelings of isolation. Foods such as fruits and vegetables benefit hormones that are known to increase your happiness. Social distancing means cooking at home, so prepare healthy meals.
- Helping others can make you feel better. If you know someone struggling with the social distancing issue, ask them if you can call them each day.
- Are you creative? Get involved in do-it-yourself projects or crafting. Plan to use the time from social distancing to begin an at-home project or resume a hobby you have put aside. When you are engaged in something you enjoy, it is hard to feel isolated, and the issue of social distancing will seem insignificant.
- Enjoys the outdoors. Take your dog for a walk, sit on the porch, and wave at a neighbor. As the weather improves, consider planting a garden.
- Do you enjoy books or movies? Plan to read the same book or watch the same movie as a friend or relative. Then have a group-chat to discuss it—all without the encumbrance of a mask.
- Stay connected to your healthcare provider. You can use telephone visits, online support groups, or messaging through your electronic health record. Providers can do many things by distance, so know what is available and contact your healthcare provider if necessary.
Do not allow the pandemic to increase your feelings of isolation. Remember, we are all in this together – you are not alone. There are online tools that can help you if you are struggling with negative feelings. Find what makes you feel better and allow yourself the help you need.