Friday, May 17, 2019

Insight: The Minister of Loneliness

By Lorraine Glowczak

It wasn’t until I became involved in area age-friendly communities, that I was made aware of the very serious issue of social isolation and loneliness among the older population. But I had no idea the extent of this problem until I attended last Friday’s Institute for Integrative Aging program launch at Saint Joseph’s College (on front page).

“It [loneliness] is proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” stated Mark Robinson in a January 17, 2018 New York Times Article. Robinson is the chief officer of Age UK, Britain’s largest charity working with older people.

Social isolation and loneliness are so critical in Britain, that the Prime Minster recently appointed a Minster of Loneliness to their cabinet. Although it is true that social isolation and loneliness are challenges faced in the United Kingdom does not negate the fact that we are experiencing the same issues right here in the Lakes Region.

We are a rural area and, adding in the long cold winter months, it is easy for all us to retreat - especially the aging population. These individuals frequently live alone and, if they do have family, they often live in other states.

So, what steps can we take as a community to alleviate this problem? We’ll – luckily – Windham and Raymond areas are hosts to amazing people and organizations who strive to be there for one another. As such, below are organizations that provide activities for individuals who desire more social connections:

Lakes Region Senior Center at Little Falls Activity Center, 40 Acorn Street in Gorham
Age-friendly Raymond, Raymond Arts Alliance, Raymond Village Library and Raymond Village Community Church collaborate on a multitude of events. Call the library at: 207-655-4283
Windham Parks and Recreation. Phone: Call 892-1905
Saint Joseph’s College SilverSneakers®. Call 893-6627
Windham Public Library. Call 892-1908

There are also free weekly Monday Meals provided by area churches and organizations which can be found in our events calendar every week.

But what about those individuals who are physically, or otherwise, unable to leave their home to join in on the above mention activities.

Easily accessible transportation is a problem here in the Lakes Region and it is an issue we need to address. Much like the U.K.’s Minster of Loneliness whose directive is to confront the challenge and take action – we, too, can act as ministers of the Lakes Region, working together to find a way to solve this transportation challenge. In a recent interview with Peter Nielsen who heads the Institute of Integrative Aging at Saint Joseph’s, he mentioned this is a situation they are working diligently on.

Perhaps we can join in and collaborate with them to help solve this problem.

Although the term “minister” is often associated with religion and clergy – to minister can also mean to “care”, to “comfort”, and to “support”. Let’s all be ministers of loneliness to our community in the best ways we know how.

We each can visit someone we know who is home bound – or better yet, give them a ride. As I write and encourage you to do this, I often tell myself that I’m “too busy” to do this very thing. So, if you are “too busy”, too – let’s make a pact and do our best to be one of the many minsters of loneliness in the Lakes Region.

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