Why combating loneliness may be just as important as fighting hunger

As any sad song will tell you, being lonely is nobody’s idea of fun. But increasing research suggests that feeling lonely might affect more than just your state of mind.

Take for example a recent study reported on by USA Today. Researchers from the University of Chicago surveyed more than 2,100 adults age 55 and older and found that those who feel lonely had a 14 percent higher risk of premature death.

It’s not the first study that reaches this conclusion, as social isolation has been linked to conditions like increased stress, high blood pressure and depression. As mounting evendence correlates loneliness to negative health outcomes, the question becomes what do we as a society do to combat loneliness?

While there’s no simple cure for loneliness, services like Meals on Wheels can certainly help. We like to tell our volunteers that they’re bringing more than just healthy home-delivered meals to our clients. “It’s not just the meals that help me,” says Lenora, a client in north Minneapolis. She says that while her daughter and son live nearby and check in on her regularly, it’s also nice to have a guaranteed visit each day from the person who delivers her meals.

For some of our clients, the meal delivery person may be one of the only people they see all day. Others like Lenora have friends and family that are very involved in their lives. While each of our clients find themselves in different situations, we view that friendly visit and safety check as a little something extra that can help in the broader fight against social isolation.

In addition to Meals on Wheels, there are other organizations that work to help alleviate senior isolation. Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly is a local organization that is specifically dedicated to connecting volunteers with seniors in our community.

If you know a senior in your life who could benefit from regular visits from friendly volunteers, programs like Meals on Wheels and Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly could be part of the solution. Further resources for seniors can also be found at minnesotahelp.info.

And if you haven’t called your mom, grandpa, aunt or friend in a while, take this opportunity to do so. They’d love to hear from you, and it might be good for their health.