By Clare Goldsberry
It might be difficult to believe but recent statistics show that Baby Boomers are the loneliest generation, aging alone more than our parents’ or grandparents’ generations. A 2017 study by Harvard University, Stanford University and AARP showed that the lack of social contacts among older adults costs Medicare $6.7 billion annually, mostly from spending on nursing facilities and hospitalization for those who lack a network of close family and friends to offer help to allow aging in place.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “More Than Ever, Americans Age Alone” (Dec. 12, 2018), noted: “Researchers have found that loneliness takes a physical toll, and is as closely linked to early mortality as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day or consuming more than six alcoholic drinks a day. Loneliness is even worse for longevity than being obese or physically inactive.”
There are many reasons for this phenomenon among Boomers. We grew up in a time when being a rebel was cool; we’re independent; we’ve gotten divorced more than our parents’ or grandparents’ generation; we’ve had fewer children, and we’re very mobile in that we’ve tended to leave our hometowns in response to job and career opportunities. According to several recent studies, that creates the perfect storm for loneliness in both the Boomer generation and their parents’ generation.
As the Baby Boomer generation ages, loneliness may become a chronic problem say these studies. Sure, we got in on the Internet boom and we know how to connect through social media, but that’s not really connecting. As we reach the age of 65, which we’re doing at the rate of 10,000 every day according to AARP, and retire from our jobs, we often lose those work place connections with colleagues who’ve become our friends. So what can we do to get connected beyond the workplace and live more meaningful lives so that loneliness doesn’t become a problem?
You can become a volunteer at Duet! There are many elderly people in our community who are also lonely and many who can’t get around anymore because they can’t drive. In my opinion, there’s no reason for so many aging people to suffer from loneliness when there is such a need for volunteer services that Baby Boomers can provide through Duet’s transportation program. Not only can retired or semi-retired people provide these much needed services to the elderly (who are also lonely), but they can also give care and friendship to others who are suffering from loneliness as well.
Volunteering to provide transportation for grocery shopping or to doctor’s appointments, or even friendly visiting or helping with small household jobs, can be a huge benefit to the elderly who are home bound and need not only the assistance but the caring kindness and personal connection that Duet volunteers provide to thousands of people each year.
As a Baby Boomer, I can attest to the fact that helping others is the best way we can help ourselves. We are needed to provide many valuable services for those a generation older than we are. At Duet, we can find a whole community of kind, compassionate, caring people who are seeking to make a difference in peoples’ lives. “One” doesn’t have to be the loneliest number for anyone.