As we head toward the holidays (but please, what follows applies all year long), it’s important to remember that many folks experience isolation and loneliness, particularly those who are considered “senior” in age.

As this piece relates, more than 40 percent of persons over 65 years in age regularly experience loneliness. In general, loneliness can result in increased adverse health conditions like clinical dementia and is linked to death sooner than one’s general life expectancy.

As reported in Study Finds , research in the UK revealed that more than a fifth of seniors go a week without having a conversation with a single person. (!) Even worse, a large percentage of those surveyed agreed that loneliness kept them from even leaving their home. For more than 50 percent of respondents, just having a short chat with someone would greatly improve their day overall.

Complicating this is that many younger people worry that outreach efforts to assist seniors might be misinterpreted. Still, two-thirds of younger people surveyed said they’d be willing to do something to ease the loneliness of seniors.

Working on this piece led me to learn about the Senior Companions Program , a federally funded program to pair above-55 folks with seniors who need assistance or simply companionship. (Here's an AARP article on the program.)

I know that many churches and social service organizations (like Lutheran Social Services here in the Twin Cities) have programs to help those who experience loneliness. However, if folks aren’t even coming out of their homes due a sense of isolation, there’s a challenge with connecting programs to those humans.

I think the key here is “ARC” from Gray Area Thinking®--being Aware of a human who’s vulnerable, taking Risks to reach out and then acting with Compassion. Remember, merely stopping for another human (e.g. giving of your time) can be one of the most impactful acts of compassion that one can engage in.

Here' a great video of how a sanitation worker makes sure to give a senior just a few moments a week, which seem to make all the difference--Gray Area Thinking ® in action!

Finally, there’s a bit of selfishness in me highlighting this issue since I live alone and at times experience isolation/loneliness. That in part is what’s gotten me back to therapy. (Don’t worry; I’m good and my therapist is quite wonderful!) If my work ever slows down, you can be sure that I will consider the Senior Companions Program or something like it—both to help someone else and to help me!