Dear editor,

As we have all learned to live in this new world of social distancing and isolating ourselves, many of us are experiencing what is a harsh reality for so many older people: loneliness. It doesn’t feel good and it’s bad for our health. 

Research shows that people who feel lonely have four times the risk of early death, 68 percent increased risk of hospitalization, and 57 percent increased risk of emergency department visits than those who don’t feel lonely.

So, let’s all remember our older friends, family and neighbors around the holidays and afterward too. What can you do? Make a phone call or schedule a video chat to see how someone is doing. Ask if they need medications, groceries or meals, supplies for a hobby, or anything else. Do they need their driveway or walk shoveled? If you live nearby, mask up and knock on their door. Stand back more than six feet. Have a brief conversation. They’ll benefit from the human contact – and so will you. Encourage them to join you outside if they can safely do so – even if it’s just to walk up and down the hall or sidewalk. The simple act of showing you care can make a world of difference for someone who is alone and lonely.

When this pandemic is over – and one day it will be – remember how you are feeling now during this time and commit to reach out to those who experience isolation and loneliness all the time. 

For additional ways to help those in our community experiencing isolation and loneliness, please call the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Portage County at Lincoln Center at 715-346-1401 or toll free, 866-920-2525.

Cindy Piotrowski, director, Aging and Disabilities Resource Center of Portage County

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.