What makes us happiest and content in life? Some people may point to fabulous fame and fortune. Yet hands down, surveys show that friends and family are the real prize. Even though our need to connect is innate, some of us are always home alone. On the flip side, a person could be surrounded by people throughout the day or even be in a lifelong marriage, yet he could still experience a deep and pervasive loneliness. Isolation affects all types and ages of people, but some are more in danger than others.
Young people are at high risk of isolation. It doesn’t matter if a teenager has 500 Instagram connections, a vast network doesn’t ameliorate the emotional desolation of loneliness. Fewer and closer personal relationships are what really matter. Another age group at high risk is the very old. Research reports that more than 20 percent of people over age 60 feel lonely—frequently and intensely. As we age, friends and family age with us, and sometimes we are the last ones standing. Getting out to meet new people isn’t always easy for the very old. Yet it is imperative to connect, even a friendly smile with a neighbor can help.