S4E34: Are You Lonely Tonight? Why Loneliness Is Something You Should Address, and How to Do It.

We talk about what research tells us about loneliness, and what you can do to combat it. We also share how some elders in China are overcoming societal norms to meet their needs.

In this Episode:

  • 02:42 – The Fable of the Sand Dollar and Almond Sand Dollar Cookie Recipe
  • 05:29 – How Loneliness Affects Us and What to Do About It
  • 38:04 – Are You Lonely Tonight? China’s Elder Edition
  • 49:07 – Outro

Loneliness is the Most Terrible Poverty

Mother Teresa once said that “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”

As humans, we thrive on meaningful social connections. Feelings of loneliness set in when there is a difference between one’s desired and one’s actual level of social relationships.

Where social isolation is a lack of social connections (like what we experienced during pandemic isolation), loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact.

Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact.

If you feel lonely, you’re in good company. A Gallup poll survey released in October 2023 documenting that of 142 countries, 24% of people aged 15 and older self-reported feeling very or fairly lonely in response to the question, “How lonely do you feel?” That’s nearly 1 in 4 adults across the world have reported feeling very or fairly lonely.

A chart with age groups and responses about "In general, how lonely do you feel?" There is a 10-point gap in reported loneliness among older (less lonely) vs younger adults (more lonely)

The survey also found that the rates of loneliness were highest in young adults, with 27% of young adults ages 19 to 29 reporting feeling very or fairly lonely. The lowest rates were found in older adults. Only 17% of people aged 65 and older reported feeling lonely. These data are a good reminder that loneliness is not just a problem of aging — it’s a problem that can affect everyone at any age!

Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation

How much damage can loneliness do to your health? Learn in this video, but also easy steps to address it.

The US Surgeon General published a report in 2023 called Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation with good information and graphics. In the overview it reviews factors that can shape social connections. You can download the full PDF here.

The three vital components of social connection: structure, function and quality.  From Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation
How Does Social Connection Influence Health? From Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation

The Importance of Connection

In the video above, the Surgeon General states that lacking connection can increase the risk of premature death to levels comparable to smoking daily!

How do we connect? We can take simple steps such as:

  • Connect: Answer a phone call from a friend
  • Share: Invite someone over to share a meal
  • Listen: Listen and be present during a conversation
  • Serve: Seek out opportunities to serve others

We talk about the role of social media – it can be a tool or a hindrance, depending on the level of engagement with others, and whether it is a distraction isolating you from a real-world gathering. Use it as a tool: join the conversation with our Everyone Dies Facebook group!



China’s Creative Way to Address Elder Loneliness

Elder Chinese contestants on a game show address their loneliness
On the set of the show “Yuan Lai Bu Wan,” or “Not Too Late for Fate.” Credit…Yuan Lai Bu Wan, New York TImes article: “Lonely, Single and Over 50? China Has a Game Show for That.”

We share the fun story of China’s two game shows, “Care and Love” and “Not Too Late for Fate” which charmingly help lonely elders find potential new beaus. We finally have our version “The Golden Bachelor”, but they were way ahead of us!

Looking for love, but not into the game show scene? We have a few resources for you! Check them out in the resources section above. We also have a previous episode that might help a few of you: S2E5: Looking for Love after a Partner Dies

Wine glasses and food on a table set for two.

Recipe of the Week:

Many people dedicated to public service are familiar with the “sand dollar story,” shared in this episode. It is the standard call to duty, knowing that each life you touch matters, even if it is only one. This is true about today’s topic, loneliness. If our actions make one person less lonely, then we are doing a service to that person and to society. You can make a difference.

Maybe you can make our recipe of the week to share with someone who is lonely.  We have almond sand dollar cookies that would make a great addition to your next funeral lunch or as a gift. These cookies are a cross between a sugar cookie and snickerdoodles, perfect to warm a heart!

Make these beautiful cookies from the recipe at Granny’s in the Kitchen

We are also selected as one of the Top 50 Grief Blogs on the Web!

From Everyone Dies:

Everyone Dies: and yes, it is normal!

Everyone Dies (and yes, it is normal) is a story about a young boy named Jax who finds something special on the beach where he and his grandpa Pops are enjoying a wonderful day. Pops helps Jax understand that death is a normal part of life. This book provides an age appropriate, non-scary, comfortable way to introduce the important topic of mortality to a preschool child. Its simple explanation will last a lifetime. Autographed copies for sale at: www.everyonediesthebook.com. Also available at Amazon

Mourning Jewelry
mourning jewelry earings

We offer a way to memorialize your loved one or treasured pet with a piece of handmade jewelry.  When people comment on it and the wearer can say for example “I received this when my mother died” which opens the conversation about this loss. All our jewelry is made with semi-precious stones and beads, vintage beads, and pearls. You can choose between earrings or bracelets and the color family. Learn More

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