Relationships are vital for seniors in maintaining a vibrant life, but they can become increasingly difficult as we grow older. Friends and family relocate and pass away, we may be stressed with caregiving responsibilities, and medical issues can arise. Regardless of age, close relationships remain critical for our physical, mental and emotional health. Social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of mortality, falls, and re-hospitalization among older adults.
What can you do to stay engaged and active as you grow older?
•Volunteer: Freely offering your time and skills can decrease social isolation and feelings of loneliness. This experience is an opportunity to channel energy and challenges into something constructive and meaningful.
•Get Involved: Join a local committee, civic organization, or become active in your neighborhood association and city council. Get political and advocate for a cause.
•Prioritize Engagement: Recognize that your mental health and well-being is equally as important as your physical health. Say yes to invitations, and be open to meeting different people from all walks of life. Your new friend could be younger or older than you. Cultivate a positive, curious outlook, and don’t be afraid to strike up conversations.
•Keep Learning: Embracing learning helps promote well-being and create opportunities for socialization through classes and discussion. Many universities allow seniors to audit classes for free or for a reduced rate.
•Care for an Animal: Your new friend doesn’t have to live in your home. Walk dogs at an animal shelter or play with kittens, and chat with other animal-friendly volunteers.
•Adapt Social Technology: Learn about social media/technology so that you can connect with new people online, friends and family, and join Meetup Groups.
•Become a Great Listener: Sincerely listening to someone can be rare. Be a good listener and fully take in what someone is sharing with you. Truly listening leads to valuable friendships.
•Take Part in Activities at the Local Library/Join a Book Club: Libraries often a wide range of fun classes, speakers, and clubs for you to choose from.
•It Takes a Village: Join a Village near you that supports aging in the community- connect with the national Village to Village Network.
•Faith Communities: Contact local churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations as they offer activities and opportunities for socialization.
•Pursue your Passions: Encouraging hobbies and activities is crucial to remaining engaged in the everyday. What do you love to do? Pursue it, and this will spark conversations with like-minded people.
Remaining curious about the world, about learning, and about others is a powerful way to stay engaged. Seniors who venture out of their comfort zones, take risks, and try activities they never attempted before are less likely to succumb to the negative effects of social isolation and loneliness. The next time you are feeling lonely, try taking one small step. You can do it.
Biography: Sherry Saturno is the Executive Director of Gramatan Village. She is dually licensed as a Nursing Home Administrator and Clinical Social Worker, and holds Master’s degrees from Columbia and Long Island Universities. She is a Fellow at the National Academies of Practice, and graduated from a national fellowship at NYU Silver School of Social Work. She is the host and producer of Reimagine Aging Podcast, and wrote and produced a short documentary film, Human Investment.