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5 WAYS TO BANISH LONELINESS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

More than one in four people won’t see family around the holidays and more than one in 10 report experiencing extreme loneliness this time of year. This is a real opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people who need some kindness and connection. Here are five ways you can help people who feel alone this holiday season.

1. Reach out to your circle

Sometimes, the people around us feel lonely or sad this time of year. They may be grieving or just feel blue. Check on the people in your life and stay in touch. Everyone needs to hear that they matter to their family members and friends. Plan a visit or make a call. Write a heartfelt message in a note or card. Even a sincere check-in message via text, email, or social media can make someone feel less alone.

2. Plan some social time

With so much social isolation from COVID-19, people could use a little fun. Think about safe ways to get together with others. Look for outdoor festivals or events. (If you go to indoor events, be sure to wear a mask and practice physical distancing and other safety measures.) Warm hearts as well as bodies with music. Gather some friends or family members and go caroling around your neighborhood or arrange to visit a senior citizen’s center, nursing home, or assisted living facility and share your songs. Choose any songs you like.

Alternatively, think about using a videoconferencing platform like Zoom to plan fun virtual experiences for your loved ones. Schedule a family sing-along or share a virtual tour at a world-renowned museum. You can travel the world together without leaving home. Applications like Watch2Gether let you and a loved one watch video content together, even when you’re in different places. Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and HBO subscribers can do the same thing with Teleparty.

3. Reach out to someone who’s alone

Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to isolation. Teens and tweens can help people find social connection in a number of ways. Virtual opportunities to connect exist, too. For example, Conversations to Remember is an organization that seeks people to do virtual visits with residents in senior living communities.

Elder Helpers offers a number of ways to help older adults. Friend to Friend America combats loneliness by connecting volunteers with friends in need. You can also use this resource to find a friend for someone elseSenior Corps is a government-funded organization that includes more than 220,000 older adults who volunteer as foster grandparents, senior companions, and in other service roles.

4. Join an organized effort

AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect initiative is working to end social isolation and help older adults build the social connections they need to thrive. The platform offers a collection of tools and resources. The Connect2Affect Chatbot is a friendly, free, secure bot designed to chat with users over text messages or on Facebook Messenger. Available 24/7, the goal is to help participants build habits to stay connected with family, friends, and community. The chatbot offers coping strategies to boost well-being.

For veterans who may be suffering from isolation and loneliness, the Veterans Administration has launched the Compassionate Contact Corps (CCC). This tele-support program helps veterans who are lonely, socially isolated, or who would like to talk to someone regularly. Volunteers receive training and are typically matched with veterans based on mutual interests.

5. Help someone in crisis

For some, loneliness can exacerbate mental health issues or become a crisis itself. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can connect you with opportunities to support local crisis centers from coast to coast. They provide free, confidential, emotional support around the clock, every day of the week. With the Crisis Text Line, you can volunteer to be a crisis counselor from anywhere there’s an internet connection

The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide provides free resources to help ensure your community is prepared. And for educators, MindWise Innovations has suicide prevention programs that can be implemented in one classroom period. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has multiple resources for volunteers.

Sometimes, a friendly voice can make a world of difference in someone’s life. For more information on how you can help others stay socially connected, visit www.createthegood.org

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