Social Wellness and Chicken Soup

“Its not the chicken soup that makes you better, it’s the person who brings you the chicken soup.”

As an estate organizer, I like to keep abreast of end-of-life topics like estate and funeral planning.  These issues can be difficult enough for people who have family and friends.  For those who don’t, I can imagine that feelings of shame, fear, et al, would prevent any discussion ever getting started.  I recently attended a lecture given by a will, trust and estate planning attorney.  He mentioned that a surprising number of clients have no friends or family to act on their behalf.  So, I’ve begun digging into the subject of social wellness.  An internet search for “social isolation” easily returns a list of contemporary ills; one of the most commonly cited being the internet itself.  But, perhaps some of the root causes were baked in when our country was being formed by (mostly) European immigrants.

In this country, which so often prides itself on rugged individualism, the problems of social isolation rarely seem to be recognized or addressed. When noticed at all, they may be attributed to individuals’ shortcomings – a blame the victim mentality – rather than seen as a society-wide issue.  Isolation often increases with age, but the problem is certainly not limited to the elderly.  The United States may be unique in its perfect storm of contributing factors.  For instance, poverty in America is isolating, whereas this is not the case in many countries with much higher rates of poverty than our own.  Our nation was built from scratch a mere 250 years ago, has experienced a rapid population increase, and covers such a large land mass that we are truly physically distant from each other.  Here in San Francisco, there’s hardly a building older than 100 years, and homes with functioning front porches are even rarer.

Many early European immigrants arrived here alone or with only a few relatives.  Spreading out across this country’s vast landscape, pioneers often lived in relative (no pun intended) isolation.  Farming communities needed to pull together for survival, but individual farms/homesteads were often far apart.  My father, who grew up on a small Midwest family farm, said that nobody talked to him when he was a boy.  The implications of this seem tragic beyond words.

The chicken soup quote is from a website Social Wellness: What It Is & Why You Need It (at any age)



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