SOCIETY

A Cure for Loneliness? It Might Be As Close As Your Local Mall

Once-dead shopping malls are re-emerging as community hubs — offering social connections for people of all ages

Kathleen Murphy
Minds Without Borders
5 min readJun 14, 2024

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Image generated by the author using Freepik

I spent much of the 1990s in a large shopping mall, where I worked as the marketing director. Like other malls of that era, my center served as the unofficial “town square,” where many of life’s key moments took place: First job, first date, first time to buy a record album or a training bra.

These and other milestones were memorable not only because they were “firsts,” but because they took place around others. When they happened, we may have felt excited or nervous or even embarrassed (especially at that first bra fitting), but seldom did we feel lonely.

Not so much today. Studies show that a staggering 36 percent of Americans report feeling lonely. Only 16 percent feel attached to their local community. This sense of isolation and detachment significantly impacts people’s health and quality of life.

So it’s gratifying to see a glimmer of hope, albeit from an unlikely source: the much-maligned shopping mall. Once the hangout of bored housewives and tattooed goths, it’s re-emerging not just as a place to spend your money, but as a place to…

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Kathleen Murphy
Minds Without Borders

Health writer and essayist offering insights into physical and emotional wellness and successful aging. Subscribe: https://kathleenamurphy.medium.com/subscribe