Did you know social isolation and loneliness are detrimental to both physical and mental health? Though you can’t see it under a microscope, loneliness is a very real, double-whammy threat to well-being. The science says so, which you can read about it my last post. But instead of getting into the statistics again, I’d like to speak to you human to human as that’s what ultimately matters here.
Human connection is the foundation of human nature. We are social beings (even introverts and self-proclaimed anti-social people), so not having any—or very limited—social interaction takes away part of the foundation of being. We can all probably recall a time in which we felt lonely, but the current times are so unusual that past experience doesn’t necessarily give an advantage. Social distancing was novel at first, but as it is the new norm, so is some level of social disconnectedness. Thus, bouts of loneliness are inevitable, even for the most seemingly social people, but persistent loneliness is detrimental. Now that we have been in pandemic times for almost the entire year, it is time to think about loneliness as a pandemic too. After all, COVID-19 and social isolation practically go hand in hand, which is a problem.
Social distancing is ironic when it comes to health: it protects us physically but can also harm us mentally. That physical space between friends and family or the mental barriers to getting together virtually is an invisible stress that accumulates, perhaps unknowingly. And part of the problem is feeling helpless against it. Chances are you don’t know someone who can tell you “Oh, here’s how I coped when I was self-isolating during a prolonged pandemic.” We’re all in the same boat and looking for ways to stay entertained and connected. But for some, there’s a hole in the bottom of the boat, right where they’re sitting. Those “some” are old folks. And that hole is a lack of social connection. We might not see it from our seat in the boat, but it’s there, and it needs attention.
My heart goes out to old folks in nursing homes, even in the best of times, and especially now. Because social distancing does save lives, especially among more vulnerable populations and settings like nursing homes, ways to connect with these folks must be contactless but meaningful. What can one do to help plug the hole in the boat for a fellow, perhaps older, human? Here’s an idea: cards. Yes, the kind that comes on paper and you write in with pen. You see, cards are special because they are something you can physically touch. And physical touch is evermore precious these days. Okay, yes, touching a card can hardly be equated to touching a loved one. But the fact that someone took the time to write the card, put it in an envelope, seal it, and put it in the mailbox—these simple gestures are no small thing. They are intimate, in a way, and thus meaningful.
Furthermore, handwritten sentiments resonate with older populations. Though I don’t have data to back this, I do think that many old folks are quite open to using technology to connect, but I would venture to say that a handwritten note is extra special. I would also go so far as to say that it doesn’t even need to come from a loved one. Someone who has taken the time to write a sincere, uplifting message—well, that would make anyone feel pretty good, maybe even comforted. This is where EVR Creative cards come in.
I, EVR, see cards as a way to build/restore community in this pandemic. Ravaged by division, socially and physically, more of us are looking for ways to help each other out. And just because the disconnectedness fueled by the pandemic is unprecedented doesn’t mean solutions to staying connected need to be. The old-fashioned way of connecting (i.e., sending cards) is still a viable tool. So maybe the next time you feel like sending a “thinking of you” text or email, think about sending something more tangible to show your support, like flowers, a ready-to-cook meal, or a card. And because I’m biased toward cards, just let me say this: never underestimate the power of a card. You don’t know what those few words of kindness, comfort, or humor might do for somebody. Besides, cards are like paper hugs that you can send in an envelope. And who doesn’t love a bit of good snail mail?
Inspired to provide creative ways to connect people and combat loneliness, EVR Creative cards are sold on a one-for-one basis: for each card purchased, I donate one to someone in need of extra comfort. Since learning how nursing home residents are significantly affected by pandemic-induced social isolation, I have vowed to send all card donation to nursing homes for the foreseeable future.
So far, I’ve donated over seventy-five cards in the Seattle area. Feedback from the residents has been positive: they enjoy reading a positive note and appreciate that someone thought of them. This is social connection. I’m proud to see that these cards sponsored by others, and made by me, are reaching the hands of those in need. If I can make something that makes someone’s day better, even momentarily, that is a good day’s work. This is what motivates me to keep going.
If you’re feeling inspired to reconnect with someone or just change up the way you normally communicate with your people, consider a card. And if you’re thinking about sending a card, consider sponsoring one for someone who could use a little extra comfort right now. Purchase an EVR Creative card and know that by sending out a paper-based nugget of goodness to someone you care about, you are supporting a second nugget of positivity for someone else. And as the days get shorter and the holidays get closer during these unsettling times, giving comfort is even more necessary. We can all contribute comfort in our own way, I just so happen to offer comfort through cards.
This blog post originally appeared on Emily’s website, EVR Creative. Emily also writes about health, wellness, the pandemic, and more on her blog!