Loneliness: Timebanking as Antidote

By Grace Maselli

“Time is the currency creating mutual support networks, reducing isolation and improving health and well-being.” So says the commentary from across the pond in the United Kingdom by timebank organizer Sarah Bird. In a TEDx talk by Sarah published May 18, 2017 called, “Timebanking in the UK: It’s about Time,” Sarah offers that when we connect with people—folks at any stage of life in our communities— by sharing time with them face to face, we make a difference and potentially help to stave off loneliness.

The condition of loneliness, as we know, can have a negative effect on physical health, in addition to the mental health impact. Not only for elderly people who live by themselves, but also for the young and people in new stages of life. A recent Fortune magazine article from earlier this year titled, “Study Finds that Half of Americans—Especially Young People—Feel Lonely,” points to a Cigna health insurer survey: “A nationwide survey of 20,000 adults found that 54% of respondents said they feel like no one actually knows them well, NPR reports. Additionally, 56% of people said the people they surround themselves with ‘are not necessarily with them,’ and approximately 40% said they ‘lack companionship,’ their ‘relationships aren’t meaningful,’ and that they feel ‘isolated from others.’”

Arguably this sense of loneliness also applies to people in periods of life transition. Folks who have just moved to a new state or new county within a state, let’s say, new mothers coping with the wild changes that can attend parenthood, newly divorced people, the newly widowed, and “Empty Nesters,” the people whose children go off to college, putting parents in a vast state of transition as they face empty houses and shifts in identity. “Timebanking can transform healthcare, creating mutual support networks in communities by encouraging people to help one another using time as a currency, not money,” says Sarah. The moral of this universal story is that people can benefit from positive relationships, from time spent together. A timebank exchange in the form of visiting someone in his or her home, nursing home, transitional housing, or any place that’s mutually agreeable holds the promise of meaningful human contact with other community members. Some things can not easily be measured in dollars and cents alone.