Before the rest of the world retreated into their homes and trips to the store and work dwindled to a minimum, Jeannette Winner already was growing accustomed to the solitary life.
“I’m no spring chicken anymore,” Winner said with a laugh. “Some people keep charging through that part of their life … I’m content to just get up in the morning and go to bed at night.”
After a recent stint in the hospital, Winner came back to her 40-acre property, which overlooks the mountains near Williamsport, Pa. A fiercely independent woman, Winner, 85, is no longer able to drive and rarely gets out of the house.
But while COVID-19 has intensified Winner’s limited human interaction, her daily experience is now common for many others in all walks of life.
Growing over the years
Isolation and loneliness are nothing new in the United States, according to Kimberly Delbo, director of nursing services at Emmanuel Home in Northumberland. In fact, it’s an issue that has more than doubled since the 1980s.
“This was a public health epidemic even before COVID-19,” Delbo said. “It’s very detrimental to one’s health for someone to be alone.”
While many see isolation as an issue mainly for older individuals or those in nursing homes, research shows that depression and social exclusion exists among younger people as well.
Vivek Murthy, the 19th U.S. surgeon general, is an outspoken advocate against isolation and loneliness and has spent years researching its progression and cause.
Amplified by COVID-19
Forced isolation due to the coronavirus has taken an existing problem and amplified it, Murthy said in a recent USA Today article, which also highlighted his book, “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.”
He predicted that extended isolation would have...
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