TAIV highlights coalition efforts made to battle loneliness, social isolation
For the Tomahawk Leader
TOMAHAWK – The Tomahawk Area Interfaith Volunteers (TAIV) recently shined a light on a growing public health issue in Wisconsin and provided information on how to combat it.
A release from TAIV explained that loneliness and social isolation are on the rise in Wisconsin and across the United States, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While people of all ages and backgrounds can experience loneliness and social isolation, older adults and people with disabilities are uniquely susceptible, which puts them at risk for significant health problems,” TAIV stated.
Governor Tony Evers recently declared Sunday, Nov. 13 through Saturday, Nov. 19 as Social Isolation and Loneliness Awareness Week in Wisconsin in an effort to “bring attention to the growing challenges and new initiatives to support people in Wisconsin communities,” TAIV said.
In the U.S., 40% of people who have a disability and 43% of people aged 65 or older say they feel lonely some or all of the time.
“According to a 2020 AARP Foundation report, two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are experiencing social isolation, with 66% reporting that their anxiety levels have increased during the pandemic,” TAIV stated. “Given the scope of the problem, individuals and organizations throughout the state have joined forces to form the Wisconsin Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness (WCESIL) to address the challenges and find community-based solutions.”
While loneliness and social isolation are often conflated, they are distinctly different, according to Joan Litwitz, TAIV Program Director and WCESIL member.
“Social isolation is commonly defined as an objective measure of the number of contacts that a person has,” Litwitz explained. “People who are socially isolated have little, if any, contact with other people. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a subjective feeling about the gap between a person’s desired levels of social contact and their actual social contact.”
Litwitz noted that both are associated with physical, emotional and psychological health impacts, which include greater risk for cardiovascular events, depressive symptoms, cognitive decline and abuse and neglect.
“While there are inherent challenges in finding and supporting lonely and isolated older adults and people with disabilities, there is also strong interest in finding community-based solutions,” TAIV said. “As a start, the group encourages people to reach out to those who are isolated and may be lonely, not just during the holidays, but throughout the year. Taking a moment to call, video chat or visit can make a big difference in the life of someone who lacks meaningful connections.”
“Our hope is that by working together, we will better understand and support people who are lonely and isolated by raising awareness, engaging in policy initiatives and sharing detection and support strategies to reduce loneliness and social isolation and improve health and safety in the process,” Litwitz stated.
To learn more about becoming a volunteer to provide companionship to those who may be experiencing social isolation or loneliness, contact Joan Litwitz at 715-453-8200.
Follow the Tomahawk Area Interfaith Volunteers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lovetaiv/.