The last hurrah for RI retired pensioners

Published in RINewsToday on May 22, 2023

To this day, talk to any state worker or teacher who retired and they are not happy campers. To the contrary, they remain bitter as to how former Governor Gina Raimondo sold them out with her version of pension cuts in 2011 when state retirees, retired teachers, and many municipal retirees had their annual pension Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) suspended, and public workers had to trade in part of their defined-benefit pension plan for a 401 (k) style benefit, putting their retirement at risk. 

Four days ago, just like abortion and gun control legislation, pension change filled Room 35 to capacity with retired teachers and state workers calling for the Rhode Island General Assembly to bring back Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) to the retirees’ pensions.  The Clifford Group, Citizens for Pension Justice, and the Facebook Group, Advocates for COLA Restoration, successfully mobilized their retiree members to come to the House Finance Committee (HFC) held on May 18, 2023.

Putting the spotlight on three pension proposals

Currently there are at least 11 bills in the legislative hopper retgarding COLAs for state workers and teachers and the HFC heard testimony on many of these bills. These bills were held for further study in Committee. According to RI General Law Title 36-20-39 any proposed bills impacting the retirement system shall not be approved by the General Assembly unless a “pension impact note” is appended to the proposed legislation.  At press time this has not occurred.

Here are three of the pension bill fixes considered at last Thursday’s HFC:

Kicking off the over three-hour long hearing Rep. David A. Bennett (D-District 20, Warwick) called for HFC’s 15 members to pass H 5038, a bill that would restore the COLA to state employees and other RI pension system members  who retired prior to July 1, 2012.

Looking back when he was a freshman lawmaker in 2011, Bennett remembers voting to eliminate the retirees’ COLA because the administration told him that keeping the COLA would bankrupt the state and nullify all contracts.  “This is the only bill I have strong regrets voting for and it affected a lot of people, some of them already deceased,” he said. 

“It’s a shame and I wish I would never have voted yes to taking away the retirees’ COLA” says Bennett. With the cost of living continuing to increase, people need a COLA,” admits Bennett, noting that they had a contract ensuring a COLA when they retired. “When you retire your pension should be protected,” he says.  

Like Bennett, Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-District 27, Coventry, Warwick and West Warwick) expressed concerns about her vote to eliminate the retirees’ COLA over 12 years ago. Serpa told the HFC that “valuable actuarial information was withheld” and that she was “misled back in 2011” about the financial condition of the state’s pension system. 

Serpa acknowledged that many of her former colleagues are suffering because of her “terrible” vote. ”In all of my time it was the worse vote I ever, ever took.  I will never ever, ever, ever again take a vote like that against retired teachers or retired state employees,” she pledged.

“I have spoken to a number of people since that vote.  People I respect.  People with degrees in accounting and they have clearly indicated that the pension fund could easily have been amortized and left almost whole,” says Serpa. 

Serpa is the sponsor of H 6295 which provides a one-time stipend of 3 percent of retirees’ first $30,000 for all teacher and state retirement members, including many municipal systems retirees. This stipend, coming from the state’s General Fund, may be renewed annually by the General Assembly based on the state’s fiscal status. 

H 6295 would at least provide temporary relief to the retirees,” says Serpa, admitting that she is “not married to her bill” and has signed onto every pension bill that has come before her.  “I have been here long enough to know that if you have only one idea in the hopper you have no cards to play with”, she says. “We must put the ideas out there to start a conversation. and we have to take action soon,” notes Serpa. 

State Treasurer James Diossa  requested Rep. William O’Brien (D-District 54, North Providence) to introduce bill H 6006 that would provide a one-time allowance of $500 for eligible members of the employees retirement system of Rhode Island.

“H 6006 provides meaningful relief to those struggling to buy gas or groceries,” says Diossa, noting that over 30,000 retired teachers, state and municipal employees would benefit from passage. “This bill would not impact the pension system like other COLA restoration and stipend proposals would,” he said, stressing it would provide relief while maintaining the stability of the pension funds.  Diossa acknowledged that many might be frustrated knowing that it’s a stipend only and not a COLA.

To watch the May 18, 2023 hearing of the House Finance Committee, go to

Retirees weigh in

According to W. David Shallcross, a former Cranston teacher and retired Lincoln school principal, many Rhode Island state workers and teachers do not receive Social Security coverage. The state pension system was established in 1936 as an alternate Social Security plan. The state required by Rhode Island law that every teacher and state worker must participate and that the employer, the state, like all employers, must contribute.

Shallcross stressed that to teachers and state workers “this is not free money, it is money they ‘banked by RI law’ to sustain them when they retire. They contributed a significant portion of their wage as long as they were employed.

“Today’s dollar is only worth 68 cents compared to the 2012 dollar. Yearly, Social Security adjusts benefits based on the cost of living in the preceding year. Rhode Island has done nothing in this regard for retirees in the last 10 years. Yet our legislators continue to enjoy the COLA first awarded them in 1995,” he charged.

Retired State Employee Santa Priviter strongly supported the passage of H 5038, opposing any retirement bills [considered by the HFC] which offer a one-time stipend and/or distribution schedules for pension benefits. “Those other bills would still maintain the RI Retirement Security Act formula which effectively eliminates retirees’ inflation protection,” she says.

“A one-time taxable stipend worth about $1.00 per day for one year – or 25 cents per day for 4 years – is not a COLA because it doesn’t offer continuing, real relief against inflation.  H 5038 does,” notes Priviter.

“Our newly elected treasurer has offered a $500 onetime stipend.  How utterly insulting.  What can $500 buy?”  asks Lorraine Savard, a teacher who retired in 2004.  “The millions in this years’ financial state surplus can be used to give teachers and state workers a much needed financial boost. If not the return of our COLAs, then other creative compensations, for example a reduction in state income tax on state pensioners,” she urges.

“As you know, since 2012 the value of our pension benefits has decreased by 30%”, said Brian Kennedy, a former state worker employed for over 30 years at Rhode Island’s Division of Personnel at the Office of Human Resources.  “In the same time period, the State Budget has increased from $7.7 billion  to $13.7 billion,” he says.

Kennedy acknowledged that it is highly unrealistic to consider being reimbursed all the COLA monies owed, as some other bills provide, but he urged the HFC to consider adjusting the 2012 base for computation of the go-forward COLAs.  That base should be increased by the inflation rate from 2012 to the current time in order to reflect 2023 dollars.

According to Kennedy, in dollar amounts, the average individual “increase” over the last ten years is roughly $10/month. “Our pensions reflect 2012 benefits paid with 2023 dollars, a windfall for the state, but an insult to the retirees,” he says.

“Is there anything more sinister than mandating a “reform” program with a twenty year finish line to elderly retirees with a twenty year mortality rate?  Coincidence?” he quips.

Patricia E. Giammarco, from Citizens for Pension Justice, agrees with Kennedy’s assessment that it is now or never. “It’s abundantly clear that the state will be spending less and less on COLAs until it reaches the illusory 80% funding, when most pre-2012 retirees will be dead.  To ask us to continue to subsist on virtually nothing, only to receive that virtually nothing once a year or once every four years, is not only highly suspect, I feel it is downright treacherous,” she says.

Giammarco ends her testimony by stating: “You can disguise a pig and bring it to market trying to sell it as a cow, but in the end, it’s still a pig.  I would ask this body to absolutely reject the offerings of any false prophets and to do the only thing that is ethically, morally, and legally acceptable when viewed in the totality of the circumstances.  Support H 5038 and return to the retirees who retired prior to July 1, 2012, that which should never have been taken away – their contractually guaranteed 3% compounded COLAS.”

Susan Sweet, a former state associate director of the Department of Elderly Affairs and an advocate for seniors facing hardships and low-income difficulties, remembers being part of the original group opposing the pension cuts and the broken retiree contract and being told by the state arbiters that the pension cuts were entirely political, not financial.  Members of the General Assembly were deceived regarding the need and impact of the cuts.  No other state has taken benefits away from already retired workers who have fulfilled their side of the contract. Two tried but were struck down by their courts.

“A Rhode Island Superior Court ruling states that a COLA and a pension are “one and the same” and ‘not gratuities’, Sweet quotes, “and the General Assembly was advised otherwise even though the state’s actuary advised against this. How long will this injustice continue? House bill H 5038 and the companion bill in the Senate which is identical, S 0564, are the most reasonable and responsible pieces of legislation being considered.  I urge all Representatives and Senators to pass this legislation before it is too late to benefit the retirees who were dealt this terrible blow to their later years.”

The clock is ticking… with the state’s now-estimated surplus of $500 million plus and millions received from the Wells Fargo settlement, it’s time to act now.  The General Assembly must not continue to kick the can down the road until the can is destroyed and the retirees are all dead.


Can AI create an “Authentic” Commencement Address? 

Published in RINewsToday on May 15, 2023

It’s May and Rhode Island’s college seniors are graduating from colleagues and universities, ready to go out and make their mark on the world. According to the Education Data Initiative, this year there is an estimated 19,782 graduating seniors who will sit through commencement ceremonies with their families and friends, all listening to commencement speakers and watching diplomas being received. These graduation ceremonies are an academic milestone in the graduates’ lives.

The usual commencement address, traditionally about 10 minutes in length (up to 2,500 words), offers sound advice and inspiration to help the graduates to successfully navigate both their personal lives and professional careers throughout the years ahead. These speeches will vary widely, and can either be serious or lighthearted, but they should all be authentic, motivational, and informative.

The internet quickly makes the “sage advice” given by these commencement speakers available to millions across the globe. Whether you are a graduate or not, reading the speeches can be very helpful to anyone open to wisdom being imparted.

Many of the graduating seniors might not remember what they heard at the ceremony, but they just might remember the inspirational feelings felt during the commencement program.

As I have stated in previous commencement speech articles that I have penned, you don’t have to always be a politician, judge, television or radio personality, actor, or Fortune 500 CEO to give sound advice and tips to graduating seniors. As a matter of fact, it has been increasing popular to have graduates, themselves, deliver those commencement addresses, as well as “regular folk” who have overcome obstacles throughout their lives. Often, these addresses can be the most valuable with everyday knowledge. 

Real Folks Give Advice

In June 2014, this writer penned an article giving the Class of 2014 tips how they could ease into their professional niche in a state with the distinction of having the worst employment rate in the nation that continued to be one of the last states to see an economic revival – Rhode Island.

This article noted that there were many potential commencement speakers in local communities throughout the Ocean State who fly below the radar screen and could give college graduates sound strategies for success gleaned from their life experiences.  

Here are few tips given:

Michael Cassidy, Pawtucket, Retired“As you go into the ‘real’ world from the sheltered ‘world of college’ don’t be too quick to judge the new people you meet in the workplace.  People come in all types, sizes, shapes, temperaments, personalities, ages, and backgrounds; and they all have their own experiences from which you can learn. If you are smart enough to listen to what others have to offer, you can learn from them not only about what to do, but about what not to do. And most times learning what not to do is the most valuable lesson you can have.”

Susan Sweet, Rumford, former state administrator, non-profit lobbyist and advocatestated“In the short space that we are in the world, we must create meaning in our lives by contributing to the happiness and well-being of other people and other sentient beings. To do good and useful work, caring and acting for the betterment of others is the true goal of life.”

Larry Sullivan, Net Compliance Solution’s technical & consulting services. “Recognize opportunity. If you can’t identify opportunities, then they are very likely to sneak past you unnoticed. Most people’s search criteria are so narrow in focus that it can essentially blind them to opportunities available right in front of their face. It’s the old “can’t see the forest for the trees” scenario.  Also, see yourself as a valuable asset. Your self-image will make a huge difference in the type of opportunities you attract to yourself. If you see yourself as a valuable asset, and you present yourself as such, others will see you that way as well.”

Joan Retsinas, Providence, a writer.  “Savor, savor, savor. Savor the sunshine, and the rain. Savor your friends, your family, your colleagues. Nurture the people close to you. Be a friend. Fall in love. If you fall out of love, fall in again. Read “Winnie the Pooh” to a child. Eat ice cream. Ride a bike. Swim in the ocean. Laugh. As for fame, fortune, and success, don’t fret. They don’t really matter.”

This year, I haven’t been asked to give a commencement speech, but with all the talk about AI and how it can write essays and homework assignments as well as most important thing, I wondered what it would generate if I gave it a few prompts.  

Using AI to Generate Speeches

With emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) I technology, future commencement speakers may be tempted crafting an inspirational and memorable speech.  ChatGPT (which can even mimic human speech in addition to creating high-quality content in seconds), is the latest way to quickly write a speech that stands out and leaves a lasting impact.

By using ChatGPT to write your speech, you can save time and create a speech that is tailored to your audience and purpose. But you must provide ChatGPT with all the necessary details and take the time to review and refine and tweak the draft speech to ensure it meets your needs.

Massachusett Congressman Jake Auchinclosstook a creative approach to his most recent speech on the House floor to make a point about artificial intelligence.  He was speaking on a bill to create a center for AI research, and used the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT to write his speech.

According to a Jan. 20 article penned by Popular Science’s staff writer Andrew Paul, attendees of the World Economic Forum’s Davos summit openly admitted that they use AL for speeches and emails.  Speaking with CNN, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated in a speech that he is already relying on ChatGPT as a “writing assistant and thought partner,” reported Paul in his article, noting that among Nadella’s daily tasks, the AI chat program helps him craft emails, alongside speeches “in a friendly, upbeat, authoritative tone with mixed cadence.”

Last February, Isaac Herzog, the president of Israel, became the first world leader to publicly use ChatGPT, after delivering a speech at the Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv, partly composed by the AI ,the Jerusalem Post reported, AL wrote the introduction of the speech and generated a “inspirational quote” for its conclusion.  

You can expect more people to follow Auchincloss, Herzog, and Nadella’s lead in using ChatGPT, the latest AI technology to write their speeches.  

Here’s my attempt: To the graduating class of 2023

After typing in “2023 Commencement Speech” along with key issues of interest to me such as  political “global unrest,” the “economy” and “political divide at the national and state levels,”  ChatGPT, was able to generate the following address that could be given to this year’s graduating seniors, in just 10 seconds, and with a perspective that reflects the way I was thinking.

“To the graduating 2023 seniors, I provide you with a commencement speech to thrive in the coming years.  

I am honored to be standing before you today as you embark on the next chapter of your lives. You are graduating during a time of great uncertainty and unprecedented challenges. The global pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives, the economy is struggling, and political divisions seem to be widening every day. But despite these challenges, I am confident that you are well-equipped to navigate these uncertain times and succeed in whatever path you choose to pursue.

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge that the current events have taken a toll on all of us, and I want to offer some advice on how to cope with them. The pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and interact with one another. It has forced us to adapt to new ways of doing things and challenged us to find creative solutions to problems. It has also reminded us of the importance of community and the power of human connection.

As you go out into the world, remember that you are not alone in facing these challenges. Seek out and build relationships with people who share your values and can support you during difficult times. Take care of your physical and mental health, and be proactive about seeking help if you need it. And remember to be patient and compassionate with yourself and others as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

The poor economy is another significant challenge that you will likely encounter as you enter the workforce. The job market may be tough, and it may take longer than you anticipated to find your dream job. But remember that setbacks are temporary and that your hard work and dedication will eventually pay off. Be open to new opportunities and willing to learn new skills that can make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers.

One of the most important things you can do to cope with the poor economy is to be financially responsible. Live within your means, save money whenever possible, and avoid taking on unnecessary debt. This will give you more flexibility and freedom as you navigate your career and personal life.

Finally, I want to address the political divide that seems to be widening in our country. It can be disheartening to see so much division and negativity in the news and on social media. But I encourage you to stay informed, engage in civil discourse, and seek out diverse perspectives.

Remember that we are all human beings with different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. 

We may not always agree with one another, but we can still treat each other with respect and kindness. Be willing to listen to other points of view, and don’t be afraid to change your mind if new information or perspectives come to light.

In conclusion, I want to remind you that you have the power to shape your future and make a positive impact on the world. The challenges that we face today may seem overwhelming, but I am confident that you have the skills, knowledge, and resilience to overcome them.

As you go out into the world, remember to be patient, kind, and compassionate. Take care of yourself and those around you, and always strive to be your best self. Congratulations, graduates, and good luck on your journey!”

With the growing interest and use of ChatGPT, will more commencement speakers take advantage of this new AI technology?  Will the graduating seniors see the difference from an originally written, “authentic” speech providing tips gleaned from life-long experiences (like speeches given by college graduates or regular folks) or an AL generated address?  Time will tell. 

The above commencement speech was obtained from

Warning: Being lonely and isolated is hazardous to your health

Published in RINewsToday on May 8, 2023

Last Sunday, just days before releasing an advisory or “public statement” raising the alarm about the devastating impact of loneliness and isolation in the United States, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy published an essay in the New York Times announcing its planned release. In his essay he also talking about his own personal struggles with loneliness and called for enhancing social connections to be made a “top public health priority”. 

One day before the release of Murthy’s new advisory on May 2nd, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Murthy’s new advisory is a component of the Biden administration’s bigger efforts to address the nation’s mental health.  The releasing of this advisory was well-planned, being issued in May, designated as Mental Health Awareness Month in the US.

Sounding the alarm

The 81-page advisory report titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” finds that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, about half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness.

While the advisory is “not an extensive review of the literature” the information was culled from electronic searches of research articles published in English and resources suggested by “subject experts,” with priority given to meta-analyses and systemic literature reviews.

As the nation’s chief advocate for public health, Murthy is using his office as a bully pulpit to issue an advisory calling for the nation’s immediate awareness and attention to the widespread epidemic of loneliness and isolation. He also provides a roadmap as to how it might be swiftly addressed.

According to the advisory, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. Disconnection fundamentally affects our mental, physical, and societal health. Loneliness and isolation increase the risk for individuals to develop mental health challenges in their lives, and lacking connection can increase the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily.

The advisory noted that the physical health consequences of poor or insufficient connection include a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, lacking social connection increases risk of premature death by more than 60%.

While there are no new promises of federal dollars for tackling this societal problem, the Surgeon General’s advisory is tended to raise awareness and lays out a framework for a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection, which has never been implemented before in the United States. The advisory also provides suggestions about how specific groups – including governments, providers, researchers, health organizations, schools, high-tech companies, media, parents and caregivers, community-based and philanthropy organizations, workplaces and individuals – can take to increase connection in their lives, communities, and across the country and improve their health.

“Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an underappreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight – one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives,” said Murthy, in a statement announcing the release of this advisory. “Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connection the same way we have prioritized other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity, and substance use disorders. Together, we can build a country that’s healthier, more resilient, less lonely, and more connected.,” he said.

Brigham Young University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Julianne Holt-Lunstad agrees with the Surgeon General’s assessment of the national importance of recognizing that loneliness and isolation can be hazardous to your health and to society’s wellbeing. “The advisory shows that too many Americans lack social connection in one or more ways and the evidence of the severe consequences have been growing for decades. While the pandemic helped raise awareness, since this was problem well before the pandemic, getting back to normal is not enough,” she says. 

“This advisory helps bring greater awareness to this important public health issue, and sets forth a framework for a national strategy –with detailed recommendations for various stakeholders—to begin to take action.  The personal and societal costs of inaction are far too high,” says Holt-Lunstad.

Along with affecting a person’s physical health, loneliness and isolation can contribute substantially to mental health challenges, too, says the advisory.  In adults, the risk of developing depression among people who report feeling lonely often is more than double that of people who rarely or never feel lonely.

Meanwhile, loneliness and social isolation in childhood increase the risk of depression and anxiety both immediately and well into the future. And with more than one in five adults and more than one in three young adults living with a mental illness in the U.S., addressing loneliness and isolation is crucial to fully addressing America’s mental health crisis, says the advisory. 

The advisory notes that while the epidemic of loneliness and isolation is widespread and has profound consequences for our individual and collective health and well-being of the nation, there is a simple way to attack this societal problem: social connection.

Social connection is beneficial for individual health and also improves the resilience of the nation’s communities. Evidence shows that increased connection can help reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, dementia, and depression. Communities where residents are more connected with one another fare better on several measures of population health, community safety, community resilience when natural disasters strike, prosperity, and civic engagement.

Six pillars to advance social connection

This Surgeon General’s Advisory lays out a broad framework for the United States to establish a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection based on six pillars.

Pillar one calls for strengthening social infrastructure (parks, libraries, and playground) and the programs and policies in place.

The second pillar urges government at all levels to create “Pro-Connection” public policies like accessible public transportation or paid family leave to foster more connections in the family and community.  

Because loneliness and isolation are risk factors for patients with heart conditions, dementia and depression, the third pillar calls for utilizing heath care providers to assess and identify patients for risk of loneliness and intervene.

Pillar four calls for critically evaluating our relationship with technology to ensure that how we interact digitally with others doesn’t reduce meaning and healing personal connections with others.

More research is needed to study the impact of loneliness and isolation, beyond the evidence outlined in the advisory.  Pillar five calls for the deepening of our knowledge to understand the causes and consequences of social disconnection, populations at risk, and effectiveness of efforts to boost connections.

Finally, pillar six notes the importance of cultivating a culture of connection to influence the relationships of people we have in our daily lives. 

This week in an RINewsToday article on combined loneliness – and grief – Dr. Mari Nardolillo Dias noted the compounding risk for individuals. Dias says, “Grief and loneliness are common, albeit toxic, bedfellows,” and she suggests building in small activities to look forward to which she says gives us “hope” for the future. (

Social engagement can help maintain good brain health 

For years, researchers involved in the publishing of 13 Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) reports on various brain health topics including the impact of social isolation and loneliness. “We’re thrilled that the Surgeon General is focusing new attention and energy on this critical topic,” says  Sarah Lenz Lock, senior vice president of policy and brain health at AARP, also serving as GCBH’s executive director.

Both the GCBH reports and the Surgeon General’s advisory talk about the importance of social connections to health, says Lock. “The GCBH focused on how critical social engagement was to maintaining good brain health as you aged beginning in 2016, while the Surgeon General report in 2023 talked about all ages and health conditions, and followed the extreme social isolation brought about the pandemic that occurred afterwards,” she notes.  

According to Lock, the pandemic was a forced natural experiment that demonstrated the harm of loneliness and isolation which is what we had being saying long before.  But now we can see it in even more stark terms [after the pandemic],” she adds.

Lock sees the Surgeon General’s efforts to create a National Strategy to Advance Social Connections to be an extremely important initiative. “People of all ages need to take steps to stay connected with others for their health and mental well-being.  It’s not just a “nice to have’ this kind of project, it’s a critical need to have for the health and well-being of our nation,” she says. 

While there is no federal funding allocated to fund implementation of the advisory’s recommendations, a divided Congress might just be able to come together to address the personal and societal problems caused by loneliness and isolation. “This is an issue that affects both parties and we hope that it is viewed as a bi-partisan issue. Further, the healing power of social connection goes beyond individual health. The more communities, society, and leaders, can feel connected the more we can trust and rely upon one another and tackle many of the issues that we face as a nation,” adds Holt-Lunstad.

During this session of Congress, the Surgeon General’s advisory should be put placed on its policy agenda to hammer out new laws to enhance the nation’s social connections.  In concluding the advisory’s letter from the Surgeon General, Murthy warns:  “If we fail to do so, we will pay an ever-increasing price in the form of our individual and collective well-being. And we will continue to splinter and divide until we can no longer stand as a community or country.”

For a copy of the Surgeon General’s advisory, go to:

GCBH has published 13 reports on various brain health topics. All of them can be found here:


Tips on Connecting with Others

Below are recommendations to optimize and promote social engagement from the GCBH report. The recommendations are ordered so that the first ones might be appropriate for people who have very few social connections. This is followed by suggestions for those who are relatively socially active. The final recommendations are for those people who are already socially active. The GCBH also recommends that these people consider increasing the diversity or variety of their engagement. It is recommended that people should generally maintain a variety of the suggested types of engagements.

To promote meaningful social engagement:

1. Focus on the relationships or social activities you enjoy the most.

2. If you have no one around who can help you engage socially, turn to professionals who can assist. a. Examples: telephone hotlines, drop-in centers, a chat with a local religious leader, etc.

3. If you feel lonely, you can try to change this by making a new connection or by seeking different opportunities to engage with others.

4. If there are barriers to interacting with people (e.g., difficulty getting around, unsafe neighborhood), see if you can identify someone you could ask for help, and let someone assist you in making connections.

5. Try to keep a circle of friends, family or neighbors with whom you can exchange ideas, thoughts, concerns and practical matters, and who can also help or encourage you. It does not need to be a large group of people as long as those in it are important to you and you are important to them. Try to have at least one trustworthy and reliable confidante to communicate with routinely (e.g., weekly), someone you feel you can trust, and you can count on.

6. If you are married, this can benefit your cognitive health, but you should consider fostering other important relationships. Individuals who have never married or are divorced or widowed often have many other connections that provide support.

7. Try to speak every now and then (e.g., monthly) with relatives, friends and/or neighbors; communicate in person, or by phone, email or other means.

8. Help others, whether informally or through organizations or volunteer opportunities. For example, visit a lonely neighbor or friend, shop for/with them, or try cooking together.

9. Maintain social connections with people of different ages, including younger people. Keep in touch with grandchildren or volunteer to help people at a local school or community center. Think about the skills you have and that you use routinely that might be valuable to pass on to others. Offer to help teach a younger person skills you may already have, such as cooking, organizing an event, assembling furniture, saving for the future, investing in the stock market, etc.

10. Add a new relationship or social activity you didn’t try before. Place yourself in everyday contexts where you can meet and interact with others (e.g., stores or parks).

11. Be active and challenge yourself to try out organized clubs, courses, interest groups, political organizations, religious gatherings, or cooking classes.

12. If you are already socially active, diversify your activities. Consider joining or starting a group that doesn’t exist in your community and is centered around a common interest (e.g., a workout group).

Practical tips for those who have trouble engaging socially:

1. People can take small steps to connect with others. Share a smile a day with someone, show interest in someone by asking how they are, hold a door for someone, and practice a random act of kindness.

2. Reach out to neighbors or acquaintances whom you may not have spoken to in a long time: for example, call, send a card, email, or check social media.

3. Look at the list of additional resources that we provide in Appendix 1 and consider using them.

Source:  AARP