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Be Informed


  • Why is social isolation an important issue?

    Social isolation — defined as a lack of social contacts and having few people to interact with regularly — has been deemed a social determinant of health. Not only is social isolation bad for one’s mental and emotional health — it is tangibly detrimental to one’s physical health.

    In May 2023, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared that social isolation was a national health crisis. He reported that social connection is a fundamental human need – as essential to survival as food, water and shelter.

    According to the National Institute on Aging, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social isolation and loneliness have even been estimated to shorten a person’s life span by as many as 15 years.
    "This finding makes sense in light of the growing evidence that loneliness is associated with greater sensitivity to pain, suppression of the immune system, diminished brain function and less effective sleep. Recent research has shown that for older people, loneliness is twice as unhealthy as obesity, and chronic loneliness increases a person’s odds of death in any given year by 26%”, writes Dr. Robert Waldinger, director of Harvard Study of Adult Development.
    Since 1984, FriendshipWorks has matched thousands of older adults with volunteers to help them thrive in their communities. Whether it’s a weekly visit with a friend, completing a household task, or someone to accompany them on a medical appointment, FriendshipWorks can help elders at no charge.

  • Program Overview – Impact of FriendshipWorks
  • What programs do you offer?

    All of FriendshipWorks programs are designed to foster connection and help elders stay connected in their communities—be it one-on-one or in groups. Our five programs are offered free of charge to all participants and include:
    – Friendly Visiting matches volunteers with older adults to build long-lasting friendship – services all of Boston, Brookline, Newton, Somerville, and Cambridge.
    – Medical Escorts accompany older adults to, during and from their medical appointments in Boston and Brookline.
    – Friendly Helpers also services Boston and Brookline.
    – PetPals pet volunteers (and their humans!) bring their unconditional love as they visit older adults in long-term care facilities in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge.
    – MusicWorks hosts groups that help older adults socialize, move, and engage with their neighbors through music, singing, and dancing in elder residential buildings in Boston.

  • How many older adults participate in FriendshipWorks’ programming each year?

    In 2023, over 1,600 older adults benefitted from our FREE programming. Additionally,
    – 411 older adults were connected to Friendly Visitors,
    – 285 were joined by Medical Escorts,
    – over 400 befriended our furry PetPals,
    – over 700 danced and sang with MusicWorks, and
    – 143 were helped by Friendly Helpers.

  • Our staff and network of nearly 600 dedicated and caring volunteers bring friendship, connection, and assistance to older adults living alone. We invite you to read about some of the lives that have been profoundly impacted through our mission to reduce elder isolation throughout Greater Boston on the Our Stories page. Or Download our Impact & Gratitude piece from the righthand column on this page.