Haims: Social connection is important at any age
The loss of a spouse, friend, or pet can be devastating at any age. Sometimes, these occurrences can cause people to lose their perspective on life. For senior citizens who may have lost friends and family to death or illness, maintaining a social life can often be difficult.
While experiencing loss and lonesomeness may be difficult, it does not have to be an impossible hurdle to develop a new social life. As with almost any of life’s challenges, maintaining a good outlook, and keeping an open mind to new opportunities that present themselves is imperative.
It should come as no surprise that as we age, many of us frequently get comfortable with our daily routine and group(s) of friends. Unfortunately, doing so inhibits us from having new experiences and may have the effect of shutting us off from our community and the world in general.
Socialization may very well be the glue that binds the many aspects of a quality and healthy life. Observational and interventional studies are showing that socialization betters life quality as it promotes physical activity, improves nutrition, improves emotional well-being, and helps keep the mind sharp and engaged.
One of the most well respected studies regarding socialization and aging is the United Nations’ Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021–2030. The study identifies four interrelated concepts for protecting and maintaining the health and well-being of older people:
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- Change how we think, feel and act towards age and aging
- Ensure that communities foster the abilities of older people
- Deliver integrated care and primary health services tailored to older people
- Ensure access to long-term care for older people
A good beginning step to starting anew is to think about what activities you once enjoyed. Sometimes as we share our lives with others, we forget about the many things we once enjoyed doing. Pick them up! Or, think about the activities, hobbies, and even places you once found intriguing. There are plenty of local and nation clubs that provide great opportunities to share and contribute shared passions and interests.
Here in the valley, the newspaper has a great calendar of events detailing the many activities that are happening weekly. Colorado Mountain College also provides many fabulous education classes and speaker series. As well, Vail Club 50 offers many summer and winter activities. If these offerings do not piques your interest, consider volunteering time at a school and sharing your time, life, and skill sets with our youth. There are also plenty of nonprofit organizations that are always looking for enthusiastic participants.
It is human nature to have the need to feel a belonging to or part of a community or family. Social integration is important. Here are some suggestions on rebuilding a rewarding social life:
- Make a commitment to yourself: Put your goals and aspirations on paper. Become committed to achieving your goals
- Stay – or get — fit and healthy: Few things help the mind more or build confidence than a healthy mind and body.
- Consider trying new activities: Yoga, tai-chi, swimming, book clubs, philanthropy, gardening, taking educational courses — try something new.
- Seek out people with similar interests: There are many clubs and activities offered throughout our communities.
- Look forward to the future: Setting high standards and goals gives great purpose to life.
Young or old, loneliness can contribute to a plethora of physical and psychological concerns. Maintaining an active social life is good for both physical and mental health — it may also keep you young at heart and motivated to live life to the fullest.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.