Battling Loneliness by Being a Good Neighbor

Posted on 06/06/24 by Ted Carey, Adrian Ramos

Mark September 28 on your calendar and make plans to connect. The Massachusetts Coalition to Build Community & End Loneliness took to the State House Wednesday, June 5, to urge elected officials to take steps that would alleviate the epidemic of loneliness in the commonwealth. The coalition is asking them to make Good Neighbor Day Saturday, September 28, a day of action.

Convened by AARP Massachusetts, the Coalition consists of 133 members representing 79 statewide organizations committed to addressing the loneliness epidemic in Massachusetts.

The group is asking legislators to join the coalition and lead efforts to build community in their districts and enact legislation that promotes connections. The coalition hopes legislators will host a district-wide event on Good Neighbor Day.

AARP Massachusetts State President Sandra Harris
AARP Massachusetts State President Sandra Harris speaking at the Massachusetts Coalition to Build Community & End Loneliness

Sandra Harris, the State President of AARP Massachusetts and a co-chair of the coalition explained the challenge of loneliness and pointed to US Surgeon Generals Vivek Murthy’s Advisory issued last year  Surgeon General’s Advisory on Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.

The advisory warned that the negative health effects of loneliness and isolation are comparable to smoking daily. In recent years, about one-in-two adults in America reported experiencing loneliness.

“It’s time to put skin in the game, to put meat on the bone” said Jean P Bushnell, the director of Burlington Council on Aging and Co-chair of the coalition.

AARP Massachusetts State Director Mike Festa to the Massachusetts Coalition to Build Community & End Loneliness about AARP's work to battle social isolation
AARP Massachusetts State Director Mike Festa to the Massachusetts Coalition to Build Community & End Loneliness about AARP's work to battle social isolation

AARP State Director Mike Festa talked about how the Commonwealth is leading the way in the Age & Dementia Friendly movement. Massachusetts worked with AARP to become one of the first states to join the AARP Network of Age- Friendly states and communities. Festa pointed out that the legislature is taking up an AARP priority – ADUs by right. (A proposed change in the law would make Accessory Dwelling Units allowed in all single family zones in Massachusetts. Residents would no longer need town approval. AARP believes ADUs can be affordable, accessible housing option for people of all ages.)

Florence Powler, 96, speaks about the role the community of Millbury has played in her life throughout the years

One of the more poignant moments in the program came from 96 year old Florence Powler of Millbury. She spoke of how her community has played a role throughout her life, from public housing to the council on aging. How simple lunches with family members and friends can mean so much. She also talked about the power of friendship and the grief that can come from losing someone close to you. The day before, Florence attended the funeral for her best friend of 80 years.

Samuel Kelley from Sutton High School speaks about what he learned as an intern at the Millbury Council on Aging

Samuel Kelley also of Millbury and a student at Sutton High School shared his experience of interning at Millbury Council on Aging. He found that seniors enjoyed meeting and interacting with younger people. He pointed out his school’s National Honor Society has held a Sock Hop for seniors and everyone- young and old had a fun time and made connections.

Sen. Cindy Friedman, L and Sen. Pat Jehlen at the Massachusetts Coalition to Build Community & End Loneliness Lobby Day

Two State Senators who play key roles in advancing changes that will help older people also spoke.


Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen, who is the co-chair of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs pointed to the work being done on Beacon Hill including the Governor Maura Healey’s Affordable Homes Act. Sen. Cindy Freidman spoke about how connections are fundamental to our well-being; how simply eating with someone can make a difference.

For more on the Massachusetts Coalition to Build Community & End Loneliness and its plans for Good Neighbor Day check out the website

This story is provided by AARP Massachusetts. Visit the AARP Massachusetts page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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