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We discussed senior loneliness back in December as the holidays were upon us. Being alone becomes glaringly obvious when everyone around us is gathering with their circles and we may not have the community we once had. Loneliness can negatively impact physical and mental health. Aging adults may feel like a burden to younger loved ones, leading them to isolation. Their spouses/partners and acquaintances may no longer be mobile or healthy enough to visit. Or they may have passed away. Isolation can lead to mental and cognitive decline. February, in all of its hearts and flowers and love glory is one of those seasons that illuminates loneliness. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
What if we made an effort to write down the people in our current life who we would like to know better, and then made small steps toward friendship. When I want to be intentional about friendship with someone, I let that person know I’m thinking about them with regular communication. That can be through a quick text, phone call, email, or sending a letter or card. It doesn’t need to be long or detailed. Just checking in to say hello and show you care. Sometimes it takes a little more bravery, like asking someone to get coffee or go on a walk with me. Taking the initiative in making friends or developing existing friendships can be intimidating, but remember that isolation is an enemy to our wellness. Strength does come in numbers. Even a single good friendship is valuable.
Another way to step out of isolation is volunteering. Senior Corps is an organization offering many various volunteer options.
- Senior Companions are volunteers 55 and older who offer assistance and friendship to other seniors. They help with daily living tasks.
- Another option is becoming a Foster Grandparent volunteer. This program allows seniors to serve the youth in their local community through friendship and mentoring.
- The third option I want to mention is called RSVP. This diverse serving opportunity allows seniors to use their skills and/or develop new skills while helping their communities. A few examples of opportunities include organizing neighborhood watch programs, renovating homes, teaching English, etc.
Friendship can happen organically, but we can’t always wait for friends to come to us. We must be proactive. Even if you are no longer able to leave your home there are still options for friendship, such as letter writing and phone calls. And it may be time to request one of those senior companion volunteers for yourself. Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Let’s tell the world we want to be friends and see how it responds to us. Be well as you develop meaningful friendships.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.