And by sharing what you create, it’s as if you’re sharing a “representation of your thoughts and feelings, whether it’s a painting, a poem, a baked good, or a garden,” Nobel says.
He says loneliness isn’t just about lacking companionship. “Often loneliness starts with a sense of estrangement or disconnection from who you are. How do you fit into the world?” Nobel says.
Art can be very powerful for centering and positioning — a way to explore your own identity. “And I actually believe for many people, that’s an essential first step to connecting with other people in an authentic way,” Nobel says.
3. Reach out to the elderly
For many elderly people, social distancing has brought layers of challenges. “It’s not just the lack of contact with others,” says physician Kelli Tice Wells who is a senior medical director at health insurer Florida Blue. It’s also “not being able to navigate things that can be critical to your life” such as on-line grocery shopping or getting prescriptions, Wells says.
Miriam Membreno, of Miami, Fla., who is trained as a social worker, recently started working as a Papa Pal, after her hours at her regular job were cut short. She meets with a few elderly people virtually.
“I do feel like I’m helping them be less lonely,” Membreno says. She says sometimes they just want to share stories, and she likes to listen. Other times, during a virtual visit, she says, they share worries that they have bottled up. “Just having those stress and concerns released,” is worthwhile, she says.
Another program for seniors, Live a Dream, collects video montages to brighten a senior’s day. Young people can submit a short video to share. You can tell a joke, play an instrument, or just give some encouraging words.
There are numerous efforts to connect elderly people in senior living facilities with younger people around the country. Check with local groups to find one where you live.
4. Become a citizen-scholar, a online tutor, or assistant to the visually impaired: Find your way to volunteer, virtually
As many community organizations struggle to keep up with rising needs and shrinking budgets, volunteer options — even contactless ones — abound.