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Ending loneliness starts with each of us

Loneliness is difficult to measure because it looks different for each of us.

Some of us will feel lonely when we are socially isolated and feel the stress and strain of having fewer people to connect with in our lives. While for others, spending time alone can be a preferred way of living.

And then there are those who feel alone even when they’re surrounded by people.

Dr. Caitlin Coyle, research fellow with the UMass Boston Gerontology Institute, described loneliness as an emotional quality in an interview with AARP Massachusetts president, Sandra Harris, earlier this month.

“Loneliness is really an emotional state. It’s a feeling … I think of it a little bit as an equation, so it’s what happens when what you want to have as far as your amount and type of social relationships does not equal what you have,” she said.

However it looks, loneliness is known to negatively affect an individual’s physical health and should be taken seriously.

“Evidence that tells us both loneliness and isolation have negative impacts on all kinds of health outcomes,” Dr. Coyle said.

That’s why AARP Massachusetts is looking to end it and build stronger communities for people to connect with throughout the state.

On Thursday, the organization will host a state-wide virtual summit to address the topic and share insights with attendees.

The summit will be hosted by AARP Massachusetts’ Taskforce to End Loneliness and Build Community and their partners at the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston and will offer participants information about raising public awareness about the problem, growing intergenerational opportunities, and specific strategies to build community in a variety of ways.

The presentation builds off of the insights gathered this spring when the taskforce held listening sessions around the state to hear from communities how they were responding to social isolation, as it was being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hope is that as more is known about the impacts of loneliness and isolation, all of us will begin to pay more attention to our daily social connections with others.

Are you interested in learning more about ending loneliness and building community? Register here for the Oct. 1 online summit.

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