Relationships help bring purpose to our lives. Having a strong network of family, friends or neighbors can also help reduce social isolation that can lead to loneliness.
The World Health Organization defines loneliness as “the pain we feel when our social connections do not meet our needs” and social isolation as “the state of having a smaller number of social contacts, which may contribute to loneliness.” While social isolation and loneliness have always impacted peoples’ health, the issue has gained more attention in recent years because of the isolation many experienced during the pandemic.
The National Institute on Aging recognizes the importance social wellness plays in overall health. Their social wellness toolkit has a number of positive social habits to consider, including making new connections, strengthening existing relationships, doing healthy activities with others, focusing on healthy relationships, and more.
Getting started may seem intimidating, but an easy way to start is by connecting with others in your own neighborhood. HHSC launched the Know Your Neighbor (PDF) campaign in 2020 to encourage connection and engagement.
The campaign encourages Texans to form and maintain new connections with older neighbors to help reduce the risks of isolation and loneliness. By following five simple steps, neighbors can start making a difference in their lives and the lives of others.
- Step 1: Reach out to a neighbor. Know Your Neighbor provides tips and resources on how to do this in a safe way.
- Step 2: Invite. Ask your neighbor for a virtual or in-person introduction.
- Step 3: Engage. Ask helpful questions to get the conversation started.
- Step 4: Assist. If your neighbor needs help connecting to community resources, Know Your Neighbor has fact sheets to help them get started.
- Step 5: Tell others. Encourage others to engage with Know Your Neighbor.
Resources, such as template emails and letters, are provided to make creating connections easier. More information on the campaign can be found on the Age Well Live Well webpage. To explore all the social engagement resources, visit the Aging Well Resources Order Form and choose “Social Engagement” under category.