Hear What Rebecca Has to Say About Life Story Club

Life Story Club Contributor

Since beginning our journey in 2019 in a handful of recreation rooms of assisted living facilities and senior centers, Life Story Club has come a long way. What began as a quest to document the stories of older adults – stories that would otherwise be lost to their families- led us to understand that what older adults (like so many of us!) were missing most of all were opportunities to make deep connections and to feel part of a community with a shared sense of purpose. It opened our eyes to what is now commonly known as a public health crisis: our global epidemic of loneliness and social isolation. The U.S. Surgeon General advisory released last May brings attention to the devastating health effects of loneliness and social isolation for older adults: loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, 50% increased risk of dementia, and 30% increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, 43% of older adults in the U.S. report feeling lonely.

Like you, we believe that everyone should be able to grow not only in years, but also in their sense of belonging. That’s why Life Story Club is offering social storytelling clubs for older adults free of charge, every weekday, and in four languages. And we couldn’t do it without your support.

Meet Rebecca. Rebecca has been a member of Life Story Club since early 2020. Shortly after joining the club, she moved away from her home near Morningside Gardens in Manhattan–the community in which she had lived in for nearly her entire life. She raised four children there, and had built a successful child care center. After the COVID-19 outbreak, her family decided it was best for her to leave Manhattan to split her time between her son’s house in Maryland and her daughter’s in upstate New York.

A longtime Manhattanite, Rebecca shared that at 100 years old, it isn’t easy to meet new friends as a newcomer to both areas. She spends her days mostly alone pursuing many of her passions, including writing poetry, art projects, and painting. But still, she longs for the camaraderie she once had with her friends in Morningside Gardens, a form of connection that she explains, “cannot be replaced.” Since 2020, Life Story Club has made it possible for her to reconnect with her old friends who also joined the club, and to make new friends too. She describes her weekly Life Story Club as a lifeline, “a way to be social and feel part of a community despite the long distance.” And so for the last three years she has Zoomed in to her club every single week.

This year, for her 100th birthday, Rebecca decided she wanted to celebrate in person with the other members of Life Story Club, and we were more than happy to facilitate! This is how Rebecca ended up at The Expat diner in Morningside Gardens, with Ezra (her longtime Life Story Club facilitator) and ten members of her Life Story Club. The group sang Happy Birthday, shared stories, and gifted her cards and pieces of art. It was a day filled with love, celebration, and togetherness, and one we will not soon forget.

And Rebecca is just one of hundreds and hundreds of older adults who have found a sense of belonging through Life Story Club. With your support, we are working hard to expand the number of people we can serve, and to be able to keep our existing clubs ongoing throughout the year (yes, even Christmas Day!). And we want to be able to do this free of charge. Your generous gift will make this possible.

Together, we’re making an impact:

This holiday season, many of us will gather together with friends and loved ones, share stories, relive memories, and experience that special sense of belonging. It’s a great time to remember that you can play a key role in making that happen for others throughout the coming year with your contribution to Life Story Club. Your donation means the world to our members and to us!

With gratitude,

Lily Zhou

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WHO launches commission to foster social connection

Life Story Club Contributor

In response to the heightened awareness and policy emphasis on social connection, underscored by the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the Commission for Social Connection to address loneliness as a pressing health threat, promote social connection as a priority and accelerate the scaling up of solutions in countries of all incomes.  Co-chaired by U.S. Surgeon General, Dr Vivek Murthy, and African Union Youth Envoy, Chido Mpemba, the Commission consists of 11 leading policy-makers, thought leaders and advocates. Running for three years, it will analyze the central role social connection plays in improving health for people of all ages and outline solutions to build social connections at scale. The Commission will consider how connection enhances the well-being of our communities and societies and helps foster economic progress, social development, and innovation…

Read more.

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Sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer appointed New York state’s first loneliness ambassador

Life Story Club Contributor

Media personality and sex expert Dr. Ruth Westheimer is now New York state’s honorary ambassador to loneliness, a role that’s the first of its kind in the nation.

Appointed by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul Thursday, Westheimer is aiming to help New Yorkers with social isolation, which is associated with physical and mental health issues such as cardiovascular disease, depression and earlier death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has described the prevalence of loneliness and isolation as a national epidemic among all ages.

Hallelujah!” Westheimer said in a news release. “I am deeply honored and promised the Governor that I will work day and night to help New Yorkers feel less lonely.”

As New York state works to combat its loneliness epidemic, “some help from honorary Ambassador Ruth Westheimer may be just what the doctor ordered,” Hochul said in a statement….

Read more at cnn.com.

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The Cure for Loneliness

Life Story Club Contributor

We highly recommend Nicholas Kristof‘s New York Times article about loneliness, where he delves into Dr. Vivek Murthy‘s Surgeon General’s Advisory and also looks to other countries for some possible solutions. Two of our favorite solutions were “talking cafes” and “chatty benches,” two ideas designed to encourage socialization among strangers. Read the article here.

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Surgeon General’s Advisory

Life Story Club Contributor

In the latest Surgeon General’s Advisory, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy highlights the importance of social connectivity, stating that “social connection is as essential to our long-term survival as food and water.” One of the key strategies Dr. Murthy recommends to increase social connectivity is to “cultivate a culture of connection” through deeper conversation in the workplace, schools, and the wider community. Find out more here.

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