Social Isolation – presentation to MVA Municipal Accountability Assembly
Social contact is a basic need of all people and central to a healthy community. People surrounded by a network of close supportive friends live an average of 15 years longer than those alone. Recently, the Vancouver Foundation reported that 1 in 4 people felt socially isolated, disconnected from their community, lonely and often depressed. In the Lower Mainland it’s estimated that 50,000 people suffered from depression last year and 500 died from suicide.
Social isolation was identified as the most important issue by the MVA delegates. The other three issues of poverty, inadequate housing and transportation are all intertwined and are contributing causes of isolation. In our church, we heard issues of transportation difficulties for seniors, difficulty getting to know the neighbors because of language and cultural barriers, and poverty issues in our local school and neighborhood.
We found that there are two major aspects to social isolation. The first is the decline of the neighborhood, which relates to the ability and desire to interact with those who are geographic neighbors. The second is the inclusion and support of marginalized groups. Human relationships are best developed face to face, so we are developing geographic clusters of MVA organizations to work at strengthening their neighborhoods. This gives organizations working cooperatively a chance to think and act on local challenges and to develop solutions or support already existing local programs.
For example, in South East Vancouver, Saint Thomas has forged a strong relationship with the First Lutheran church and is developing ties with South Vancouver Neighborhood House and the local elementary school to help support their needs. Within our clusters we plan to reach out to different communities to work on eliminating social isolation. One barrier that has been identified is the permit process for small, local organizations to put on events in public places. Excess red tape and paperwork in the application process is preventing people from putting on local events. These events benefit the communities by creating opportunities for people to gather, have a sense of community.
We realize that we are just starting on this journey to create a more inclusive, less socially isolated community but as members of the MVA, we are committing to:
- Build relationships in geographical clusters to address local social isolation challenges.
- Use neighborhood clusters to reach other communities especially aboriginal, youth, refugees and immigrants
- Have neighborhood clusters supporting the other MVA campaigns of housing, transit and poverty
We are asking candidates to:
- Work with us to create solutions to reduce social isolation
- Reform the permit process to make it easier for local groups to put on events in public places