Bernie Sanders and the Loneliness Tsunami

07 Oct 2019 | 09:36

Hey Bernie, slow down, take care of yourself, set an example for older male workaholics, and males in general. Then there’d be fewer lonely widows, which relates to your so desperately needed program for overcoming elder loneliness and isolation, which you promoted before your sudden heart attack. And you youngers (our term), please don’t tune out, because your own older and old age may be lonely too, unless attention really, really gets paid!

.And to think I’d not have known about Bernie’s so universally needed, approach had east side social activist Jeff Gold not sent me journalist Meagan Day’s op ed “Bernie Sanders Wants to Alleviate Senior Loneliness.” Bernie might well say “overcome loneliness.” As for his hospital stay, he needs to know that without an advocate or costly special duty nurse, they are often very lonely, with hours of waiting for any medical treatment or presence!

And hospitals are expanding premises but not doctor and nurse hands-on presence. And I’ve just got to get this in – expansion means killing off loneliness-reducing neighborhood stores and eateries. Bernie, please, please address!

A Humanitarian Issue

Reportedly, Bernie’s great concern was influenced by the U.K. Labor Party’s efforts to reduce elder loneliness there, mostly, because it is a physical health threat comparable to smoking. In truth, isn’t it a humanitarian issue of the very first, but too little recognized, kind?

Consciousness needs to be mightily raised and surely Bernie’s push for countless more senior centers is important. But they must become places which also discuss and, yes, protest, social systems and biases which undergird elder loneliness and isolation. Yes, like ageism and age apartheid.

But overcoming the age apartheid, dear Bernie, means more community centers where all ages interact, form support groups and assist those who need help getting there. And being there for those who cannot be moved.

Ditto for community boards and other civic groups, and don’t forget faith groups with love thy neighbor creeds. Frail and the old, old elders (the fastest growing age group) must be an integral part of the community, especially, but not only, because of these statistics.

Stigmas Have Got to Go!

Most thankfully, Sanders’ healthcare plan includes Medicare coverage for hearing aids, dental care and eye glasses, the lack of which greatly increase loneliness and isolation. Hearing loss especially needs infinitely more understanding, and also for the unimpaired to speak distinctly and loud enough. The stigma attached to both hearing aids and dentures has got to go!

And so phenomenally needed is Sanders’ plan to cover long term care so elders can remain in their homes. Now it’s such an incredible financial hardship which needs infinitely more recognition. But paid caregiving must not be a substitute for the most profoundly needed’ caring and close involvement of families when they exist. And don’t forget friends and neighbors. The city surely has no neighbor shortage. And everyone should learn basic caregiving skills, Everyone must be caregivers.

Calls and Email

“In person” time spent with elders too much alone is surely essential, but so helpful too are regular phone calls and e-mails. And Bernie’s or any elder loneliness reducing plan, must include internet access and, of course, help from savvy tech family, friends, neighbors and volunteers. The “You’ve got mail” message is a great loneliness chaser, especially when it says “please let me know how you are doing and I would sure like to see you.”

Again, whatever our political views, please, please send heartfelt thanks to Bernie for beginning this so desperately needed movement to overcome elder loneliness and isolation. Again, he needs big time reminding to take best care of himself – to slow down already and follow doctors’ orders implicitly. And yes, set an example for other men, and never be ashamed to act one’s age, let alone look it. Protest the hateful ageist forces to blame.

And remind him too, better to lead this so critically needed cultural change, than be president. Again, countless thanks and thoughts and prayers for your complete recovery, dear Bernie, to lead this so desperately and universally needed humanitarian, surely non-partisan, and all backgrounds, crusade,

And dear readers, dewingbetter@aol surely needs your feedback,