We know that there are many people in our communities today who are socially isolated. We also know social isolation is a terrible thing. Studies have shown that isolated people have more health problems, are more depressed, have less opportunity, and even are a greater risk dying.
Along with all of this, we also know that their are risk factors that can accelerate social isolation. Among the risk factors are aging, disability, poverty, or other differences that are minority aspects. Just aging, or disability alone can thrust a person (or family) into isolation.
Any of us reading these words might remember a situation or experience that rendered us to be more isolated. When these things happened, you might remember how bad you felt, or vulnerable you were. These memories, when we care to examine them, should be a motivator to do something about this. So, what can you do?
As simple as it might seem, the antidote to social isolation is to build more relationships - social capital! And there are things that we, everyday citizens, can do to address social isolation. We don't have to rely or expect "social service" agencies will take care of these social problems. These would include:
*. Reach out to new people, and especially those who are at risk
*. Introduce yourself and engage in conversation.
*. Look for the similarities you share
*. Introduce these same people to other friends you have, and promote them in your circles
*. Seek out neighbors you do not know, and introduce yourself
*. Sit out more on your front porch, rather than hiding on your back deck
*. Smile more, and establish eye contact with people
*. Be curious and more alert to how important your own social capital is to your well-being.
These are all simple things, sort of the low-hanging fruit of social capital. Still, every effort we make to address social isolation, and to help others build social capital, is an investment in a better world for all of us.