This is not a post about diabetes, except indirectly. I am reading more and more articles about how many people in the US, and worldwide, are lonely. In the US the number is one out of every two Americans is experiencing some measurable level of loneliness. In the US, in my mind, it’s a direct result of our win/lose, individualistic, go it alone, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, car and cowboy culture.
April 30th the New York Times printed this guest essay from our Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, “Surgeon General: We Have Become a Lonely Nation. It’s Time to Fix That.” If you don’t subscribe to the Times, the main takeaway was how disconnected we’ve become from each other; young people move away from their parents, are on their phones constantly, neighbors don’t know each other, and health difficulties without support can often tip loneliness into depression.
Everyone agrees loneliness is a problem and it’s everywhere, but few offer any solutions. The Times printed a follow-up article titled, “Seeking Cures for Loneliness” and readers wrote in. The effort to ease loneliness that really touched me was offered by Mary Mulvihill of New York.
She is the founder of Seniors Taking Action. She referred to what’s called “talking or chat benches,” which are common in the U.K. and Australia and according to Mary spreading across the world. These are designated benches in parks and common areas, often pained a different color designating them as places where anyone can take a seat and chat with whoever may be sitting there or arrives.
Mary says they are working on having these in her community in New York City, and I thought immediately, what a wonderful, easy and workable thing to do. Don’t we know the casual interactions we have all the time with the supermarket cashier, salespeople, people on the bus or subway, or in the park, are almost always a lift for both involved.
If you’d like to help lower the loneliness epidemic or you’d like a place yourself where you could chat with someone, maybe you can make it happen in your community. We all know living with diabetes, without enough educational resources or the support of friends who have diabetes, can throw us right into the loneliness pool.