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The Buddy System

The Buddy System

The dictionary definition is: "A cooperative arrangement whereby individuals are paired or teamed up and assume responsibility for one another's welfare or safety."

Most of us learned this system in kindergarten and may not have thought of it since elementary school, but we need to bring back the Buddy System.

People middle aged and older now account for the largest number of people living alone. The number has nearly double in 30 years to one third of adults over 65 and half over 85. According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau figures forty -two percent of Americans live without a spouse or partner. The Pew data underscores the economic marriage gap: Adults who do not live with partners are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than those who have partners.

Lots of people living alone on limited incomes. The social impact of this fact is enormous. The New York Times reports in How Social Isolation Is Killing Us  that people who are isolated are more likely to be sick, depressed, and have a statistically higher rate of dying sooner. Loneliness can contribute to cognitive decline and create a higher risk of heart disease.  

It is almost impossible most people to admit that they are lonely.  A 2016 Harris poll "showed that almost three-quarters (72 percent) of Americans experience loneliness. And for many, it’s not just a once-in-a-while occurrence -- one-third said they feel lonely at least once a week." Loneliness can be invisible. Especially in this age of technological engagement. Being connected, "liked", "shared" with on line is not the same as actual human contact. 

So what to do? In Boston we have an organization called Friendship Works  whose "mission is to reduce social isolation, enhance quality of life, and preserve the dignity of older adults". They have a series of programs including, Friendly Visiting, which matches volunteers who visit isolated elders in their homes providing companionship and assisting with simple household tasks or errands. Friendly visitors and their “matches” develop strong and lasting friendships that are rewarding to both. Bringing back the Buddy System that benefits both the isolated person and the volunteer. 

One of Friendship Works volunteers named Chenyu says, “I see how much elders need care and companions in their lives. I believe if there are more and more people that join us to help elders; we can bring more happiness and love to this world.”


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