The loneliness epidemic (and what we are doing about it)
– VOL. 2
One thing that the last 16 months has made clear is that many of the issues we were confronting personally and as a society in the “before times” were only intensified by the Covid-19 crisis.
Prime example? Loneliness.
In 2019, the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) called loneliness an epidemic, citing research that showed that two in five Americans report they sometimes or always feel that their social relationships are not meaningful. They claimed that social isolation can be as damaging to an individual’s overall health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
After nearly a year and a half of Zoom meetings, virtual everything, and seemingly endless seclusion from the world outside of our apartments, many of us likely have been left feeling like we’re in the midst of running the New York City Marathon after huffing down a carton of Marlboro Reds.
As a digital neighborhood platform and experience company, Venn may not have all of the solutions to our nation’s loneliness crisis, but it is working to do something about it. Venn seeks to provide that proverbial breath of fresh air—and perhaps a bit more than that for its Neighbors.
Neighbors connecting at Summer on Armour, a Venn-hosted neighborhood celebration in Kansas City.
“People are going to feel lonely,” says Jessica Prestia, a Venn Host (think of her as a hybrid of a community manager and neighborhood concierge) in Bushwick. “The thing that we do—often the most we can do—is to just be there.”
For Prestia and the other Venn Hosts, being there means being both accessible and inspiring.
“To really help address that feeling of isolation, whatever you are doing needs to be easily accessible.” Jessica Prestia, Community Leader, Bushwick.
“Most people aren’t going to tell you, ‘I’m lonely and I need to talk to somebody,’” explains Prestia. “So, we try to use our resources creatively in supporting our residents by creating things that are easy to access, easy to come into, and very approachable. It’s like, ‘Are you tired of looking at your roommate? We have space here! Let’s do something cool with it!’ Our space has become a real anchor for people to express themselves and connect with others.”
Providing the Space and Support to Connect
The heart of Venn is helping Neighbors to connect with each other and to their neighborhoods, and to also provide the space for it. If you can dream it, Venn almost certainly has the space and support to help you make it come alive—whether that’s physically or digitally.
Want to set up a wine tasting? They can find you a roof deck and connect you with a wine distributor. Are you a fabric artist exploring new design approaches? Venn has space for that. Looking to learn more about local businesses? Venn can introduce you, host events and, in some cases, secure discounts for members.
In April, new neighbors were introduced to Venn over coffee and donuts served up out of a camper parked right outside their buildings.
“It’s about being there, being present,” says Gali Sheskin, a Venn Host in Tel Aviv. “It’s something that we learned after Covid: we really need to surround ourselves with a neighborhood that we don’t just love, but also feel a part of.”
“Becoming part of something larger than just yourself is so important,” adds Sheskin, “It’s how we make ourselves and our lives more vivid.”
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