In a recent Wall Street Journal article on digital cures for loneliness, the author states that studies show that loneliness is worse for health than obesity or inactivity and is as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. A Harvard University study showed the cost of loneliness for Medicare is $6.7 billion a year, adding that day-to-day contact with others is essential for all humans.
A new program to combat loneliness, similar to Uber, is called Papa. It’s an app that schedules pals for seniors and costs $17 per hour. It’s a pilot program near Tampa, Fla., using college students to be “grandchildren on demand” for shopping, chit chat or chores. Sounds like a winner!
Loneliness is especially harmful to the elderly who live alone and no longer drive. Fifty years ago, the lonely elder moved in with one of their adult children until they died. Today, many elderly people move to a retirement community, providing peace-of-mind for their children, knowing that they are safe and with other people.
As I have observed single elderly individuals who have moved to my retirement community, it is often a transformational experience as they begin to participate in various activities, hobbies and outings. The ladies “spruce up” with new clothes for dinner with their new friends. The single men sometimes find new female companionship.
This reminds me of the famous Elvis Presley song, “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” One of the the lyrics is, “You know someone said that the world’s a stage. And each of us must play a part.” I asked Alexa to play the song for me.
Digital connections are good, but human connections are better.