When my son was alive, we used to talk a lot about existential loneliness, part of the human condition. But a far greater loneliness is pervading modern human society, as reported in this article by Elizabeth Renzetti, entitled, "Being alone together" in last Saturday's Globe and Mail. In Canada, 1.4 million elderly people experience feelings of loneliness and 66 percent of Canadian university students admitted to feeling isolated in the previous year. The Loneliness Project is a website created by Toronto graphic designer, Marissa Korada, a place where people can share their stories of isolation and loneliness, perhaps an antidote to the shallowness of connection of our social media postings. Renzetti also references a book by Professor Cacioppo entitled Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection.
In his book, Cacioppo suggests loneliness could be relieved by recognizing the signal, and acknowledging it, and seeking some kind of meaningful contact that wasn't threatening--volunteering somewhere welcoming. I have previously blogged on the fact that we are biologically driven social animals, so the next time an elderly person seems to need to connect, in a store or on a bus, engage with them, as many haven't had a conversation other than a transactional one in the past six months. And we need retired professors to arrange to organize weekly seminars in retirement, or better yet, their management working in partnership with universities and colleges to set up a series of dialogues of interest to their residents.