The end of the year brings about gatherings with family and friends, work parties and for my local JACL chapter, the annual Mochitsuki. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend this year, but it is a tradition for our chapter where we come together to pound rice to make mochi. We always have delicious food, including homemade ozoni, a traditional Japanese New Year dish!
Although this is usually a busy time for many, we know this isn’t the case for everyone. Nearly 1 in 4 older adults are affected by social isolation. Studies have found that not only does isolation significantly increase a person’s risk of premature death — a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity — but also being disconnected from community often means being disconnected from the supportive services and resources communities provide.
Research shows that being connected to one’s community may help alleviate poverty and improve overall health.
A strong social network can become a lifeline to the kind of support and financial resources that make a difference during times of need. Through Connect2Affect, AARP Foundation is calling attention to the issue and helping people build the social connections they need to thrive.
How It Works
Through Connect2Affect, the AARP Foundation provides visitors with tips on staying connected to their communities and helpful resources. Practical and urgent topics covered have included:
- How to spot scams when connecting online (https://connect2affect.org/how-to-spot-scams-when-connecting-online/)
- Getting help with high-speed internet bills through the Affordable Connectivity Program
- Using locators for national and local volunteer opportunities
In addition, through its grants program, AARP Foundation sponsors new research by national and local partners to explore how health systems, nonprofits and community organizations can connect older adults to services that address their needs. You can access this free resource by going to https://connect2affect.org/.
I want to highlight one of the above resources, volunteer opportunities. Volunteerism is a great way to meet new people. I have shared this before, but volunteers are core to everything we do at AARP and help us carry out our motto of “To serve, not to be served,” as articulated by our founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus. You can sign up and learn more about becoming an AARP Volunteer by going to https://www.aarp.org/volunteer/programs/.
You can also visit AARP’s Create the Good, which connects you with volunteer opportunities to share your life experiences, skills and passions in your community. AARP’s Creates the Good offers volunteer opportunities within AARP and with other organizations. There are virtual opportunities, too. Visit Create the Good’s website here at https://createthegood.aarp.org/.
How You Can Help
Social isolation affects people of all ages, but we need to be particularly mindful of the older members of our community, who may not have access to transportation to attend events like Mochitsuki. So, if you’re able, reach out to your older members and see if they need a ride. Even a phone call itself can make a big difference!
If you know of someone who may be experiencing social isolation, consider sharing AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect resource or encourage them to explore AARP’s volunteer opportunities. Staying socially connected not only helps us thrive as individuals but also our communities as well.
AARP Foundation works for and with vulnerable people over 50 to end senior poverty and reduce financial hardship by building economic opportunity. As a charitable affiliate of AARP, AARP Foundation serves AARP members and nonmembers alike. Through vigorous legal advocacy and evidence-based solutions, and by strengthening supportive community connections, AARP Foundation fosters resilience, advances equity and restores hope. To learn more, visit aarpfoundation.org or follow @AARPFoundation on social media.
Scott Tanaka is a member of the JACL Washington, D.C., chapter and is a policy, research and international affairs adviser at AARP.