In this age of instant communication, where virtual “friends” we have never actually met are just a mouse-click away, we seem to be suffering through an epidemic of loneliness.  And among age groups, none are as heavily-impacted as seniors.

Along with shrinking social circles as friends and family move or pass away seniors are often dealing with age-related physical challenges that contribute to isolation: mobility issues, being unable to drive safely (particularly at night), and hearing or vision loss.

Additionally, being “set in their ways” may work against seniors integrating well into new communities or groups, or making new friendships. Research also shows that solitary seniors have a tendency to further isolate themselves by pushing people away. To break this addictive cycle of loneliness requires some creative action.

Tell your story. Seniors are keepers of the family stories, and usually a huge box of old photographs as well. The world of their childhood, still so vivid in their memory, is an alien landscape to the digital generation. Encourage a family member or possibly a museum volunteer to visit and help prepare a family history.

Return to a former love. In our rich Coastal community, there are groups for every interest imaginable, from astronomy to Zen, who welcome new members. If you found joy in an activity before, you can find it there again.

Beating loneliness is literally a matter of life and death. Isolation – loneliness – can speed the mental and physical decline in one’s ability to perform the basic activities of daily living by raising stress hormones and impairing immune responses.

The walled-off comfort zone of isolation is not a safe castle; it can become a prison of loneliness. Feeling trapped? You are NOT alone. Open the door, pick up the phone and call one of the friendship and support groups listed in our Seniors Service Directory on page 6. They may be the first link in the chain that pulls down the barricade.