Eyes on Chicago Elder Isolation, Again

In the news this week in Chicago – an African American couple in their seventies “trapped” amidst piles of trash in their home. Were they staying in to avoid the heat? Because they couldn’t get out? Because they were too weak to do otherwise?  Neighbors said they hadn’t seen them for weeks.

We know from Eric Klinenberg’s sociological analysis, “Heat Wave,” that this was the story for many who perished (young and old, but mostly alone) from heat-related issues in 1995. The CDC’s report found that air conditioning units could have saved people. Maybe, but Klinenberg and others point to social integration and the role that neighbors and neighborhoods can play in maintaining health and well-being.

As the summer heat beats down on us, this is the the time to play the “eyes and ears of the street.” If you don’t see or hear from your neighbors, call on them. If you do see them, introduce yourself. Likewise, if you see a smoking car in Times Square, report it.  Being nosey can be a good thing – it can save a life.

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Meika Loe

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