Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: Staying connected to combat loneliness


I just learned that loneliness can be worse for seniors’ health than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

According to Senior Center Director Laurie Fanelli, risk factors begin to increase in older age. 

She explained that there are two basic types of loneliness. Emotional loneliness is what we experience from the absence of one particular person.

This could be from missing a spouse, best friend or sibling.

The other type of loneliness, social loneliness, is experienced when we lack a wider social network or a group of friends.

Lori notes that as we get older risk factors that might lead to loneliness begin to increase and converge.

Personal risk factors for older people include poor health, sensory loss, and declining mobility. These factors limit our contact with others.

One would think that on such a small Island, it would be difficult to feel loneliness.

But it can happen because we all respect others’ privacy.

In his recent book, “Loneliness,” John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, says that “the pain of loneliness is akin to physical pain.”

Cacioppo warns newly minted retirees to “think twice about pulling up their roots and heading to fresh pastures to live out their retirement.

“We have mythic notions of retirement. We think that retirement means leaving friends and family and buying a place down in Florida. That’s probably not the best idea,” he said.

He added that people need to feel involved even after they retire, and that non-lonely people enjoy themselves with other people.

We have many opportunities here for older people to socialize. And many Island seniors take advantage of these.

One vestige of another time that helped the lonely fill their emptiness was the neighborhood saloon. We used to have many of them here on the Island. They were places “where everybody knows your name,” as the intro song for the TV show “Cheers” goes.

The lonely could find temporary comfort in bars. Part of the job of a good bartender is to listen.

For the latest information on loneliness visit

And get out and volunteer!  Nothing beats loneliness better than caring about others.