It is estimated more than one-third of those 45 and older report feeling lonely. Groton Council on Aging knows through its April 2020 survey that Groton residents 60 and older reported feeling isolated and lonely at a rate of 19%. Due to COVID-19, that number is now 51%. COVID-19 pulled back the curtain on the depth of loneliness that was present before the pandemic. It reminds us how much we need human connections.
Groton Council on Aging, State Representative Shelia Harrington, Friends of Groton Elders, and Friends of Nashoba Valley Medical Center have announced an initiative to address social isolation and loneliness.
Researchers have found that chronic loneliness is associated with a greater risk of heart disease, dementia, depression and anxiety. It is also associated with a shorter life span. Being lonely brings a greater increase in mortality than obesity or sedentary living. In 2010, Brigham Young University found the mortality of loneliness is similar to that of being an intermittent to moderate smoker.
AARP has estimated social isolation and loneliness cost Medicare up to $6 billion annually with the increased need of hospitalizations and greater placements in long term care facilities. It is a healthcare crisis that can be reversed.
People have a deep need to be seen for who they are, complex and vulnerable human beings. Zoom, Facetime, and other video technologies have been an extraordinary resource; nonetheless, they are inferior to face-to-face interactions. Before Covid-19 when we started feeling pangs of loneliness we reached out to our tribe, we called home, or visited the kids. We called a friend to have lunch or we looked for an activity or event within our community. As COVID-19 continues, our loneliness can become chronic resulting in excessive withdrawal and self-isolation.
We as a community can alter the course of isolation and loneliness. Over the next few weeks, Groton Connects will challenge residents to step in and, together, eliminate loneliness and social isolation in our community. It's the beginning of a year-long journey to raise consciousness and end loneliness. Groton Connects will present the community with a guide to change the course of loneliness.
Look for information on the town website, thegrotoncenter.org (Senior Center), COA newsletter, social media, the Groton Chanel and the Groton Herald. You can also call the Groton COA for more information at 978-448-1170.