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Family & Relationships

A “Hello Club” for the New Year:  Beat Loneliness One Call At a Time 

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Recently, I asked a long-time friend – widowed and soon-to-be 98 – how he managed to always seem so cheerful.

“Stay involved with people,” he said. “Loneliness is a killer.”

That’s no easy task, I thought. 

When his wife, who was at the center of the couple’s social network, died eight years ago, many friends fell away. And at 90, he says, he realized that his remaining circle was further dwindling as age claimed others. What has made a difference, he says, is a handful of people, young and old, who continue to check in. Visits are great, but even a brief phone call “reminds you that you’re not alone,” he says.  

Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the U.S. suffer from chronic loneliness, according to AARP’s Loneliness Study. Research presented to the American Psychological Association found that loneliness and social isolation may represent an even greater public health hazard than obesity.

This gave me an idea for a worthy New Year’s Resolution. I’m going to create a “Hello Club” for 2019. 

The rules will be simple: Pick three people you know or know of – a relative, former colleague or neighbor – who might have cause to feel isolated for reasons of age, disability or residential situation. Call them just to say hello – maybe something caused you to think about them – and ask how they’re doing. If it feels right, do it again periodically.  Final rule: This is not an exercise for email or texting.

If three is too many, pick one; if too few, pick five. 

In future posts on Get Old, I’ll let you know how my resolution is going. I hope you’ll do the same.

Six simple guidelines for creating your own “Hello Club”:

  1. Think about people who might benefit from a friendly voice checking in.
  2. Make a short list and decide how often you’re going to reach out.
  3. Note the calls on your calendar; if you use a smartphone or computer, take advantage of automatic reminders.
  4. Don’t worry about schedules, if the timing isn’t right – try again another day.
  5. No emails or texts – unless requested.
  6. Pay it forward – tell others about your own “Hello Club.” Who knows, you just might get a call yourself.   

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