So are we back to having czars yet? If so there might be a real opportunity out there on the table where we could rack up another win. I was looking at some recent studies which show that Americans are increasingly isolated and suffering from loneliness. This affects the youthful, particularly if they spend a lot of time on social media, and all too often the elderly. Perhaps we could appoint someone to take charge of this problem.
Sound crazy? Hey… the Brits are already doing it. They’ve appointed a Minister of Loneliness for just this reason. (NBC News)
It sounds like a character from a dystopian novel, but Britain has created a “minister for loneliness” to tackle modern public health problems associated with social isolation.
The government said Wednesday it appointed Tracey Crouch after research showed as many as one in ten people felt lonely “always or often” and that hundreds of thousands of elderly people hadn’t spoken to a friend or relative in the past month.
Crouch, whose official title is Minister for Sport and Civil Society, will devise a national strategy to tackle isolation across all ages, and find ways of measuring alienation in official statistics.
So her name is Tracey Crouch and her actual title is Minister for Sport and Civil Society. (How do I get that job? It sounds fabulous.) But she’s going to be tackling Britain’s problem of increasing isolation among citizens. Initially, she’s apparently just doing a study to determine the root causes, but after that, I presume she’ll be developing some plans to correct the situation.
This may sound like a joke, but is it really such a bad idea? It’s not as if we don’t have similar issues here in the United States. (Those studies I linked above are very real.) The days of getting out of doors and throwing block parties with your neighbors or going to dances in the town square have been waning for a long time. Young people, as I mentioned, are increasingly isolated and getting most of their social interaction through the internet. (This is generally not a good thing in case you haven’t noticed.) And isolation for senior citizens has been growing steadily worse as the nuclear family has drifted apart and children frequently move away to find career opportunities.
But what can be done about it? If we leave it entirely in the hands of the government, probably not much. (At least nothing terribly effective even after we throw billions of dollars at the problem.) But how about a government endorsed project which is largely funded by charitable organizations and churches, with most of the work being done by volunteers? I’m thinking of something like Meals on Wheels on steroids, but instead of food, it would just be people who are checking up on folks. Such programs already exist on a small scale in some areas and the people working on the problem could be tapped to share their experiences and guide the way.
Who would do it? Czars have tended to be a bad idea in the past and this really wouldn’t be a “government agency” dealing with taxpayer dollars as such. But there might be someone already hanging around who is perfect for the job. We always run into trouble when First Ladies try to dip a toe into actual legislative matters in the government. (Ahem… Hillarycare.) But when they promote charitable causes things have worked out well in the past. Perhaps someone should ask Melania Trump if she’d be interested in the subject. Break some of the millennials away from their game consoles and tablets and get them out doing something active in the public square. And find some recent retirees who are still mobile and able and might be interested in going around to do house calls with the elderly, even if it’s just to play a few games of cards or listen to some music together.
I don’t know. Maybe the Brits are onto something here. Is this entirely crazy, or might it be worth a look?