In our busy world, even with all its means of constant connection, loneliness plagues many people. Maybe you’ve experienced it. No doubt we don’t even realize how many lonely people we pass every day. Even more isolation hides behind closed doors, especially for older adults.
In the June 2018 AARP Magazine, CEO Joann Jenkins emphasizes the impact of social supports and friendships. “Social connections are important to your health,” she writes. “Loneliness is the new smoking—according to one researcher, it is equally as bad for you as inhaling 15 cigarettes a day. Studies show that loneliness can shave eight years off life expectancy, that it has a big negative effect on quality of life, and that it’s the single largest predictor of dissatisfaction with health care. The mortality risk for loneliness is greater than that of obesity. Social isolation of older adults is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually.”
Every month we receive referrals from social service agencies asking if we can provide a volunteer to be a friend to someone in need. Many of those referred are very lonely, with few social supports. They are living what the statistics describe.
Your friendship can brighten a neighbor’s life. Mark 12:31 tells of our command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” VIA’s new program called Heart Connections, launching this September, will provide practical, doable ways for you and your family to love a lonely neighbor in your community. We’re excited about it, and we invite you to learn more and get involved. Doing so will make a big difference in someone’s life, and maybe even in your own. What lonely or isolated heart is God calling you to connect with? —Donn Hansum, Director