Letter to the Editor - November 28, 2019
Everyone matters and everyone deserves connection, inclusion, dignity, and support
Despite our technologically connected society, people are lonelier than ever. Nowhere is social isolation and loneliness more evident than among homebound Americans. Locally, 72% of East Cooper Meals on Wheels’ recipients live alone.
Research reveals significant health impacts of social isolation and feelings of loneliness. The negative effects of loneliness on a person’s health are similar to smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day — nearly a pack of cigarettes! In simple terms, being homebound means an individual generally does not leave their home because it is difficult; it’s usually due to age, illness or disability.
Are there people in your neighborhood who are homebound? Do you know your neighbor?
I can share countless stories about how a friendly conversation provides as much nutrition as the daily meals we deliver. Carolyn Allen, 89, is a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and the family caregiver — especially for her late husband, George. When George passed away about six years ago, Carolyn found herself lonely, isolated, and extremely depressed. Carolyn told us she reached such a state of depression that she was literally eating just one meal per week and isolated in her home.
“Meals on Wheels saved my life. I feel like I’m 50 again, but I’ll be turning 90 next year. It’s not just the food that has helped. Having people visit that I can share stories with is so special,” says Allen, a Meals on Wheels recipient since June of 2016.
Here are some ways to help a neighbor who is homebound:
• Get a phone number of your neighbor’s family member or friend who visits.
• If you are able, offer help with tasks like running an errand, mowing the lawn, trimming a tree, or changing a light bulb.
• Visit and engage in a conversation. A 5-to 10-minute conversation is enough to refuel someone’s otherwise lonely day.
With the accelerating pace of life, we are sometimes forced to focus on the future and moving ahead. The big trade-off, however, leaves our homebound neighbors behind. Paul Heinauer, founder of Glasspro, is a shining example of a great leader in local philanthropy. Historically, Heinauer prioritized the business mission of serving customers and taking care of his people, reaching as much as the community as possible. He has been known to recite his favorite quote from the Bible from Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition but in humility. Consider others better than yourself.”
Now is the time to make a commitment to our community by ensuring no one is left out or left behind this holiday season, or ever. Loneliness is not just a challenge for seniors, but a problem for us all in the age of technology. It is also a problem that we can work together to overcome. As you are prioritizing your philanthropic plans for the remainder of 2019, I challenge you to think about the importance of neighbors helping neighbors.
At East Cooper Meals on Wheels, we are fighting social isolation among the homebound population by delivering daily nutrition to residents in Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Cainhoy and Wando who are homebound or unable to provide their own meals. Learn how you can help at www.ecmow.org.
George Roberts, President and CEO
East Cooper Meals on Wheels
Mount Pleasant, SC