Heroes save lives by running into burning buildings, fighting off attackers or diving into dangerous waters.

Or by simply picking up the phone.

This was on the news wire this morning:

"Loneliness could impact your risk of having a stroke. A new study shows that older adults who reported being chronically lonely had a 56-percent higher stroke risk than those who rated their loneliness low. The lead study author at Harvard noted the importance of assessing loneliness, and said "consequences may be worse if ignored."

Americans face an epidemic of loneliness and social isolation, according to an advisory by United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy.

The health impacts include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. Social isolation, meanwhile, leads to societal dysfunctions “in our schools, workplaces, and civic organizations, where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished.”

Scientists are finally figuring out that mental health, and more specifically the need for human interaction, is actually critical to our well-being.

report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) points out that more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.

Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss.

There are some great resources for those of us who are lonely from the CDC:

  • AARP—Provides helpful information to seniors to help improve quality of life and provides access to Community Connection Tools.
  • Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)—A network of over 620 organizations across America that provides information and assistance with programs including nutrition and meal programs (counseling and home-delivered or group meals), caregiver support, and more. The website can help you find your local AAA, which may provide classes in Tai Chi and diabetes self-management.
  • Eldercare Locator—A free national service that helps find local resources for seniors such as financial support, caregiving services, and transportation. It includes a brochure that shows how volunteering can help keep you socially connected.
  • National Council on Aging—Works with nonprofit organizations, governments, and businesses to provide community programs and services. This is the place to find what senior programs are available to assist with healthy aging and financial security, including the Aging Mastery Program® that is shown to increase social connectedness and healthy eating habits.
  • National Institute on Aging (NIA)– Provides materials on social isolation and loneliness for older adults, caregivers, and health care providers. Materials include health information, a print publication available to view or order no-cost paper copies, a health care provider flyer, and social media graphics and posts.

But what if you aren't lonely, but want to be a hero, want help someone in need?

How to recognise and support someone who may be lonely
  1. Be there. If you think somebody might need to talk, trust your instincts and strike up a conversation. ...
  2. Reassure them. Let them know that feeling lonely is completely normal. ...
  3. Be patient. ...
  4. Listen.
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