People can feel lonely and isolated regardless of the amount of social contact they are experiencing.
That was the theme of a program given recently by Delores Kelley to the Heart-N-Hands Extension Homemakers Club.
Kelley defined loneliness as the feeling of being alone, no matter what a person's circumstances are.
Social isolation is the lack of social connections, she said, and experiencing isolation can increases a person's risk of premature death as much as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity and is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Some groups -- especially older adults -- are more vulnerable to feeling lonely and isolated. Also at increased risk are racial or ethnic minority group members as well as immigrants, those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender; and those who are currently experiencing or have been victims of elder abuse, she said.
To overcome feelings of isolation, Kelley said people can seek out ways to interact safely with others; find groups with shared interests such as crafting, travel, or the outdoors; learn to use technology that allows for video calls or chats with family and friends; call friends and family regularly or ask them to call and volunteer with a local organization.
Making such problems worse is the pandemic. Increased isolation related to the reduction in pandemic spread may have greater impact on older adults, Kelley said, adding that one must learn how to interact safely during the pandemic and keep a positive attitude.
The presentation was given at Pursuit Church in White Hall where those in attendance wore masks and socially distanced.
During the business session of the Heart-N-Hands meeting, Kelley announced that the Transformation Project Food Pantry was low on cereal. Members were encouraged to continue bringing boxes of cereal to the meetings. It was also announced that 15 Heart-N-Hands EHC members achieved special recognition from the Jefferson County Extension Homemakers Council for outstanding community service and leadership. Nineteen dolls and 72 caps were delivered to the Arkansas Children's Hospital Festival of Stars. Plans were made for a jewelry workshop to be held after the February meeting.
Also during a previous meeting, Heart-N-Hands held a Christmas Party at the Pursuit Church. Gifts and candy were exchanged. Sandy Smith read a Christmas story and Kaye Richardson showed a homemade ornament she made with her granddaughter.
The Transformation Project displayed the bicycles and toys purchased with the money Heart-N-Hands donated for children at Christmas. Members also donated cereal for the project's food pantry. Several members filled food baskets for eligible families. The club also brought throws and blankets for the Christmas Project at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS.)