Submitted by: Jane Eleey, Executive Director, Penn’s Village @PennsVillage

Former British Prime Minister Theresa May lamented in an early 2018 press release that “for far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.” May sought to address the problem with the appointment of a “Minister of Loneliness” to tackle the social and health issues caused by social isolation.

Of course, the loneliness epidemic is not limited to England. A recent Cigna/Ipsos survey revealed that nearly half of Americans sometimes or always feel alone or left out.  It also showed that those who do not have enough people whom they feel comfortable asking for help were lonelier than those who do.  Our community is certainly no exception.  Those living alone are more likely to feel lonely than not.  Of course, living with the wrong person is worse than living alone.  Widows and widowers may not find an appropriate right person easily.

Cigna Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Douglas Nemecek, noted that loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity. Loneliness and isolation can be particularly problematic for the increasing numbers of seniors who prefer to stay in their homes as they age.

Philadelphia may not have a Minister of Loneliness, but it does have Penn’s Village, one of its three community-based, nonprofit organizations that are part of the national Village-to-Village Network. Villages are membership-driven, grassroots, nonprofit organizations run by volunteers and paid staff, offering activities and services that help reduce loneliness and isolation, among other services. There are nearly 300 villages in the United States since the first was established in Boston’s Beacon Hill 17 years ago.

Penn’s Village connects neighbors to neighbors in central Philadelphia through many educational, cultural, and social programs. Volunteers provide services such as companionship (our #1 request), transportation (our #2 request), errands, help with home-maintenance chores, navigating the health care system, technology support, and referrals to preferred providers such as electricians and home care.

According to AARP, about 40 million people in the U.S. are caring for an adult family member and 60% of them are employed in companies such as yours.  More than half of millennials are the sole provider for an elderly family member, providing an average of 26 hours of care each week, equivalent to a part-time job. Penn’s Village can provide a welcome solution for adult children who are trying to achieve a healthy balance of career and family while respecting their parents’ choice to remain in their own homes as they age.

If you would like to participate in a round-table discussion held at the Chamber to learn how Penn’s Village can support your employees who have caregiving responsibilities, contact Jane Eleey, Executive Director, at jane@pennsvillage.org.

If you or your employees are interested in volunteering with us to or want to learn more about Penn’s Village, please visit our website at www.pennsvillage.org