Prior to embarking on my final year of university, I had a conversation with my mom that set me on a journey filled with heart-wrenching research, inspiring connections, and fascinating artistic explorations. This conversation was centered around the topic of senior isolation as my mom had just finished working with a Boston-based nonprofit known as FriendshipWorks.
FriendshipWorks is an organization that locates isolated elders in the Greater Boston area and pairs them with volunteers who will assist them from a physical care perspective as well as support them emotionally. Prior to learning about this organization, I was aware of senior isolation in a general sense but was shocked to discover the devastating severity of the issue. According to the HRSA, loneliness and social isolation can be as dangerous to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Research has linked isolation to an increase in numerous risks including high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. As around one-fourth of adults aged 65 or older are considered to be socially isolated, this is a very real, very current, and very pressing issue that I knew I wanted to spread awareness about.
My project, “Growing”, is an interactive animation that was created using a mix of Procreate, Adobe After Effects, and Unity. It is centered around the experience of an isolated elder who has outlived her family and loved ones. As the first half of the piece depicts, she finds herself somewhat disconnected from the world around her. However, players will have the opportunity later on to aid the woman in rediscovering beauty in nature and reintroducing warmth into her life.
As former Surgeon General for the United States, Vivek Murthy, stated, “loneliness is a public health crisis.” My ultimate hope is that players are left with a strengthened sense of compassion and understanding for isolated elders.