Nautilus

Friendship Is a Lifesaver

My mother-in-law, Carol, lives alone. It was her 75th birthday the other day. Normally, I send flowers. Normally, she spends some part of the day with the family members who live nearby and not across the country as my husband, Mark, and I do. And normally, she makes plans to celebrate with a friend. But these are not normal times. I was worried about sending a flower delivery person. Social distancing means no visiting with friends or family, no matter how close they are. So, my sister-in-law dropped off a gift and Mark and I sang “Happy Birthday” down the phone line with our kids. But I could hear the loneliness in Carol’s voice.

This was hardly the worst thing anyone experienced in America on that particular April day. We are fortunate that Carol is healthy and safe. But it upset me anyway. People over 60 are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than anyone else. They are also vulnerable to loneliness, especially when they live alone. By forcing us all into social isolation, one public health crisis—the coronavirus—is shining a bright light on another, loneliness. It will be some time before we have a vaccine for the coronavirus. But the antidote to loneliness is accessible to all of us: friendship.

Those who valued friendship as much as family had

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