Social isolation affects all ages, in every level of society, and results in serious health consequences. Last year the British Parliament appointed Tracey Crouch to address the issue in their country and in our city, Vancouver released its year long study on the problem shortly
These events caught the attention of the public and resulted in a minor media storm which eventually faded away.
And what has changed? Urbanization, immigration, the impact of technology, economic factors, securalism, an aging society with mobility and health challenges – the causes of isolation and loneliness are multi-faceted and complex. These are not issues easily addressed by government.
Isolation and loneliness are social issues needing personal response within our own individual communities.
The past year in Vancouver has seen the exponential growth of Beyond the Conversation, a non profit agency creating connections among hundreds of seniors, new immigrants, refugees, international students, and youth who have joined their groups.
The South Granville Seniors Centre are enthusiastically embarking on a year long outreach project to contact isolated seniors within their community; Knox United Church are coordinating meetings among support organizations to facilitate networking, as well as promoting social connection within their community through a number of creative initiatives
Intergenerational housing – such as Happipad’s Igen project – is growing in Canada, organizations which pairs students in need of housing with seniors seeking companionship.
This spring, in southwest England, a community group hosted a “Make Someone Welcome” event where neighbours and locals came to learn the skills to better respond to the climbing loneliness of residents in their town.
These are just a very few of the endeavors I’ve had the honour of discovering over the past year, there are countless caring, compassionate and enthusiastic individuals and organizations reaching out worldwide.
The power of community.