VOLUNTEERING IN WESTCHESTER: An Antidote to Loneliness
It’s probably not a coincidence that July, a month that launches with Independence Day celebrations and is, for many people, filled with carefree summer socializing, has three national days devoted to countering loneliness. July 11 was national “Cheer Up the Lonely Day.” July 27 will be “Talk in an Elevator Day.” July 30 will be “International Day of Friendship.”
Feelings of loneliness are all too common among Americans. AARP research shows that 44 million adults age 45 and older experience chronic loneliness. A recent survey of 20,000 Americans ages 18 and older, conducted by Cigna and Ipsos, a market research firm, found that 47% felt left out, 43% felt isolated from others, and 18% didn’t feel like there are people they can talk to (https://www.multivu.com/players/English/8294451-cigna-us-loneliness-survey/).
The negative effects of feeling lonely can be substantial. Studies have correlated feelings of loneliness with an increased risk of depression and, among seniors, loneliness has been linked with cardiovascular disease, dementia, declines in motor functions, and frailty. Research has shown that loneliness, social isolation, and living alone increases the risk of premature death at a rate similar to cigarette smoking or obesity.
At WJCS-Westchester Jewish Community Services, we are fortunate to have numerous volunteer opportunities that bolster social connections. They range from socializing with homebound senior citizens, offering homework help and skills development to students in afterschool program, delivering meals to the elderly, helping with holiday drives, and much more. In addition, WJCS has a Compeer program which matches adult volunteers with clients recovering from mental illness or with serious emotional problems.
If you are interested in volunteer opportunities, please write Rebecca Sigman, WJCS Director of Community Engagement at [email protected] or call her at (914) 761-0600 x 222.