Social Capital: Why we all need it and “earning” it rewarding work

Recently I met with a homeowner who I will call Sheila.  Sheila is in her late 70’s and lives in a home far too big for her and one which she long ago lost the ability to maintain.   This is not the first time I’ve met with Sheila.  I have come three times in as many years.  What I have come to suspect is that while I am a Realtor and Sheila needs to sell her home, what she really needs is a friend.  I am likely the only visitor Sheila will have this week.  Sure, we discuss her home, but the conversation inevitably slides to her children, the weather, or the news of the day. Sheila is lacking what cultural scientists have come to call “social capital.”  Sheila has few relationships with others on whom she can lean and rely for tea or friendship, holiday visits or day trips out.


Sheila is lonely.


It’s quite common, says Lisa Stockdale, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Capital Health Care Network. (CHCN)  “We need permission to admit we are lonely at any age” she says.  CHCN offers a wide range of in-home and in-facility health care assistance but one is uniquely called “Companionship Care.”  This level of service is simply the provision of company: to take a walk, go to the movies, a ride to church, or just to sit and visit.  The most difficult step in providing this service is getting the customer to admit they need it.  “We don’t shame a child for having needs they can’t meet themselves” says Lisa, “and yet as adults we are afraid to admit that we are lonely or need that companionship.”


If you can imagine yourself a spider (stay with me here…) your emotional, mental, and physical health quite literally depends on the size of your web.  These connections within our days and lives are what give us a foundation.


Let’s examine a day of calling on and dispensing social capital:


You oversleep and you’re late for work.  Your car doesn’t start so your spouse pulls the yellow charging cables from the trunk, jumps your car and you’re on your way.  You have a meeting at 9:00 and won’t get to the office until 9:10 so Christie, a coworker, starts your presentation for you.   Grateful to Christie, you offer to buy her lunch and invite two other colleagues to join you.  One of them, Carl, works at an auto parts store on weekends and says he will pick up a battery for you at a discount.  You leave work early because every Thursday you volunteer to read to 2nd graders at a local after-school program.  By the time you are heading home, you call ahead to Panera to have dinner made for pick up.  Lucy, at Panera, recognizes your voice and says she’ll run it out to your car in 15 minutes.   When you check your voice mail you find that your daughter has called: she’s working on her college entrance essay and wants you to look it over for her.  Will you have time tonight?  You put the Panera on paper plates, gather the family, and take a first read at the essay.


There is nothing extraordinary in this “day.”  Examine the “web” and you’ll see a myriad of investments and withdrawals from your bank of social capital.  This ebb and flow of engagement with people is the building block of social capital: the pattern of networks among people of shared interests, values, or schedules and the quality of life that emerges from it.  The lack of this web puts one in danger of falling through the cracks that inevitably happen in our lives and hearts.


This lack of social capital is pandemic in our elder population.  “We don’t value our elderly” says Lisa of CHCN.   “In other cultures, we see the elderly embraced into an extended family when they need care or can no longer live on their own.  The family stays intact” Unfortunately, the western culture doesn’t often provide that safety net.  Many of our senior citizens are not only alone but isolated from the simplest of life’s pleasures: the sound of a real voice or the touch of a human hand.


Next week, we will examine how to take purposeful steps, at any age, to make sure your stay connected to those around you.


Learn of the services of CHCN at or read Lisa’s blog at


This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  Kathy is the Team Lead for The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realtors.  Thinking of Buying or Selling?  Find us

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