Are you lonely?

New Jersey lawmakers could soon approve a plan to study loneliness and recommend ways to alleviate it. For Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Hunterdon, the issue is personal.

Zwicker said his mother, who is about to turn 86, just moved into a wonderful assisted living facility, “but the loneliness permeates everywhere — you can almost see it and you can certainly feel it.”

He said loneliness is not just an issue for the elderly — it also affects those with disabilities, those with mental illnesses, veterans and even younger people. No one is immune.

His legislation calls for an 11-person taskforce "to report on the nature and the frequency of social isolation within New Jersey," he said.

The panel would also be charged with assessing the available resources, finding ways to make sure they're widely known, and identifying any gaps.

Zwicker stressed loneliness is an issue for many people in the teens and 20s because “instead of talking to people, instead of face-to-face conversations, instead what we see is text, is social media.”

“We’ve lost in so many ways as a society the ability to just hang out and talk to people," he said. "That’s an enormous, enormous concern, a big problem.”

He said everyone feels some loneliness, and everyone knows someone suffering from it  — "and the question becomes what can we do as neighbors to try to make things better.”

Zwicker is hoping the measure, which has been released by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, will soon be passed by the full Legislature.

“There’s no politics in this. This is something that has an impact on everybody," he said.

The taskforce, if created, would report its findings along with recommendations to the governor, the legislature and the public every two years.

A report by the National Institute on Aging finds as people grow older, they tend to be more alone, which makes them more vulnerable to a variety of problems including anxiety, high blood pressure, cognitive decline, depression and heart disease,

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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