Five ways to make next year’s “Cheer Up the Lonely Day” obsolete

We live in a world of almost constant communication, yet we face an epidemic of loneliness. This dichotomy of an ever-increasing means of connection and decreasing feeling of community has led to multi-generational isolation. Last year, the American Medical Association identified loneliness as a public health issue. In a 2023 Gallup poll, 24 percent of young adults report feeling lonely and in a similar poll by the Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy one in three adults aged 50–80 (34%) reported feeling isolated from others. Eleanor Rigby, the titular character in Paul McCartney and John Lenon’s classic 1966 tune, would have plenty of company today. She’d also have plenty of concerns. A study released this week from the Harvard School of Public Health noted that adults older than 50 years who report experiencing persistently high levels of loneliness have a 56% increased risk for stroke. Previous studies have linked loneliness to other health risks including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression and memory issues. Fortunately, we have plenty of ways to combat loneliness. Some of them are as simple as a phone call, text or letter. July 11 is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day and we can think of several ways to celebrate it. Organize a simple neighborhood potluck. Reach out to an old friend. Pop a couple of “I’m thinking of You” cards into the mail. Plan an outing for one of your regular group chats. Invite someone you know to volunteer with you at a local charity. One small step out of your comfort zone can lead to giant leaps away from loneliness. Invite someone to take a class with you, see a show, watch a ballgame or take a walk. Most people have really interesting stories to tell if you treat yourself to a conversation with them. Let’s work hard on this year’s “Cheer up the Lonely Day” so we can render next year’s obsolete.