Scientists Discover Cure for Loneliness: Company and Conversation"Let’s Chit Chat”
A problem shared is a problem halved is an old saying for a good reason- there’s great wisdom in it. Ever notice after you’ve had a good chat with a friend or relative over something that’s been bothering you, that the problem seems to melt away? You feel lighter, less burdened, as if speaking somehow sheds light on the problem that kept you awake in the night (or is it just me?) That midnight panic loses all its potency with the light of day. Part of the reason, other than the lack of sleep, is that in dark times of crisis, our loneliness compounds our feeling of helplessness. When we feel alone or lonely, our troubles multiply. Our mind plays tricks on us, catastrophising, ruminating, unsettled and unsure. But a conversation can shed light where we were stuck, offer another way, and helps guide us on our journey together. There’s fierce comfort in that, surely.
One of the lessons this last year of isolation has taught us is how much we miss each other’s company, and how loneliness really hurts. In fact, loneliness and its effect on mental and physical health are well documented. A recent Harvard longitudinal study concluded that the absence of a strong social network diminishes health by as much as a two-pack a day smoking habit! In Britain, a Minister of Loneliness was set up in 2018 to address this modern day problem where, despite our internet connectivity, absence of personal relationships undermined pubic health at too great a price.
Over the past year’s quietness, I can’t be the only one talking to my plants and the dog, can I? Because of my limited contact with others, the removal of any of my usual social activities means I’m more in my own head- that can prove problematic. We know that isolation contributes to cognitive and physical decline, and this shows up most acutely in our seniors. As such, Discerning Seniors is seeking better ways to connect our seniors with new networks to support easeful social interaction. The fact is a lot of our seniors spend a lot of time alone, with staff check-ins limited to medical conversations. This is no slight on our LTC staff; they are stretched very thin. So we connected with a local Toronto business woman, Jules Masset, from Let’s ChitChat, to find a solution. Let’s ChitChat connects seniors with ChitChat Ambassadors, to alleviate some of the monotony of the day, to bridge a gap in care, lift some of the burdens from the staff and add much needed, personalized company for our long term care residents. A simple conversation by phone or IPad, depending on how tech savvy the resident is, can provide a bit of escape, a breath of fresh air, and a much needed chat with a friendly face to solve the world’s problems, one cuppa at time!