By Dennis Archambault
It’s not customary to read philosophy. Or, at least, few people I know tell me about the latest philosophy book or article they read. Philosophers are thinkers and often have some pretty interesting things to say.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher in Ghana, wrote about a cautionary tale, “What will future generations condemn us for?” Climate change is perhaps the best example of how various groups speak of our responsibility to the future and how we may be judged for our environmental stewardship. Appliah examines that, our prison system, and “the institutionalized and isolated elderly.”
The philosopher raises the ethical dilemma: “When we see old people who , despite many living relatives, suffer growing isolation, we know something is wrong. We scarcely try to defend the situation; when we can, we put it out of our minds. Self-interest, if nothing else, should make us hope that our descendants have worked out a better way.
Former Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., wrote about the epidemic of loneliness in the Harvard Business Review recently: “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.”
Drs. Sachin H. Hain and Craig Sammitt, in their article, “The growing imperative to address senior loneliness,” https://catalyst.nejm.org/growing-imperative-address-senior-loneliness/add, “The problem of loneliness and social isolation is increasingly well-recognized as a societal ill, but maddeningly difficult to address. What can we do to address a problem that has roots that are not just economic, but cultural in nature, and that has downstream implications that include an undeniable effect on health?”
Here we have a population health issue as articulated from various perspectives. We are observing it close up in the population of elderly residents in HUD-contracted senior apartments in Midtown and Downtown. What is the level of their food security? How are they accessing health and social services? How is loneliness affecting their health and well-being?
As we strive preserve low income senior housing, we need to take the next step to preserving health and well-being and addressing the “imperative” of senior loneliness.
Dennis Archambault is vice president, Public Affairs, for Authority Health.