By Southwester Staff 

Waterfront Village is among the local organizations taking actions to directly respond to the public health advisory issued by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on May 2, 2023, according to Len Bechtel, executive director of Waterfront Village.

“The surgeon general has identified loneliness as a public health crisis with consequences comparable to tobacco use and obesity,” Bechtel said. “Our community needs to pay serious attention to that, and Waterfront Village is uniquely positioned to

make a contribution to that response.”

The advisory asserts that an epidemic of loneliness is plaguing Americans, jeopardizing well-being, health and sense of belonging. Research shows that approximately half of U.S. adults experienced loneliness daily, and insufficient social connection is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression and dementia.

Emphasizing that small steps can make a big difference as we seek to rebuild connections with one another, Murthy suggested that the medicine is hiding in plain sight, and that spending as little as 15 minutes each day to reach out to others can make a significant difference. 

“The Village movement is all about keeping people connected, and Waterfront Village hosts 15-20 events every month to engage older adults, who are among the groups most susceptible to loneliness,” said Carroll Quinn, president of Waterfront Village’s board. “We have something for everyone, and we want folks to have fun, remain engaged, and make new friends.”

Waterfront Village is one of a group of 13 grassroots organizations under the Village network operating in neighborhoods throughout Washington, DC. Each Village provides services and support, such as transportation, health and wellness programs, home repair, and social and educational activities. 

Last year, DC Village volunteers spent more than 27,500 hours working to combat social isolation and helping to ensure older residents are able to remain engaged and valued members of their community. More than 55% of DC Village activities are focused specifically on combating social isolation. This includes connecting one-on-one with older adults regularly; sponsoring support and mutual aid groups; and organizing social, educational, and recreational events.

The Village offers recurring monthly activities and special events, including a year in arts programming series in 2023, which features painting classes, discounted or free theater and concert performances and a creativity workshop.

An upcoming event sponsored by the Village for the entire community is the art exhibition, Art of Ages, which will be held June 9-10 at Saint Matthew Lutheran Church. While the exhibition will feature the work of artists aged 60 and older who live or work in Southwest DC or the Navy Yard, the Village hopes that local residents of all generations will attend the exhibition and celebrate the neighborhood’s cultural treasures.

“We have been programmed to believe that art is for the young and by the young,” Bechtel said. “This exhibition will demonstrate that art has no age limits, and we have the capacity to create at any age.”

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