Age 55+ And The Single Life

Having friends, married or not, is a blessing in everyone’s life, but for the single, age 55+ adult, having a circle of friends that are also single will create balance, socializing opportunities and enable fun activities.

Doing things on the spur of the moment can pose a major issue for married friends, while it is more likely that single friends will jump at the chance to join in some fun with another single friend without hesitation.

Old friends are a treasure to have, but when single, it is best to have an assortment of single friends also who share similar interests and have the time and energy to learn and pursue some new ones with you.

For instance, there are vacation spots that cater to single people in various age groups, from cruises where singles mingle, to travel adventures that include rock climbing or parasailing.  These vacations are a lot of fun and create great memories.  These experiences will always be more enjoyable when shared with single friends that are just as excited and open about exploring new destinations and meeting new people. 

Single friends typically take their personal time for granted, while married friends are always “on the clock” because their time away from their spouse may be limited.  It is also a rarity when a married adult would even want to take a vacation that does not include his/her spouse.

Single people need each other because they understand the reasons for being single and reinforce and appreciate the lifestyle. Single friends know the difference between being lonely and living alone. Just like single parents need to connect with others in the same situation for company and support or couples seek the company of other couples for dining and entertainment, single adults need the same kind of support and companionship.

A circle of close single friends can be a life-line of support for when days are difficult, understand your situation and can be great social companions to share fun activities. Having friends that are married can also be very enjoyable, but their schedules seldom allow for spontaneity or visiting at odd hours.  Their weekends are normally spent with their spouse. Financially, age 55+ adults also tend to have fewer responsibilities towards others, which makes it possible to enjoy activities that make them happy.

The final component about being a single, age 55+ adult deals with dating.  A single adult needs single friends to find like-minded partners.  The process of meeting others is a lot easier with single friends then married ones. Single 55+ adults schedules tend to be flexible when it comes to meeting new people and developing new romantic interests.

Whether because of divorce, widowhood or just choosing to be single, the single life can offer a variety in activities and quite a bit of personal time to develop interests and skills. Traveling, continuing education, joining a group to meet new friends, hobbies or simply being able to read a great book without interruptions or demands.  Being single by choice or by circumstance can ultimately lead to a fulfilling, happy and active life!

Article originally by Olivia Elisar with additions by Laura Kay House

Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections provides numerous socializing opportunities through events and travel, quality members and new connections for age 55+, active and single adults.

http://www.silverconnections.org

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Studies Connect Socializing With Quality Of Life

 The relationship between physical activity and vitality is well-documented, but multiple recent studies have also revealed an increasingly stronger link between social interaction and mental and physical well-being for those age 55+.

While socialization is critical for all people, regardless of age, those age 55+ can be more susceptible to isolation. Many have spent a considerable portion of their lives in the company of others – be it in the workplace or raising children or both.  For those age 55+, possibly being single, relocating, children leaving the house, retirement…..the opportunities for socialization often decrease.

Research has indicated that an active social lifestyle is more important than ever in helping maintain a sharp mind, remain connected to the world around them, increase feelings of happiness, and develop a sense of belonging.

Various studies have shown that socializing can produce the following positive effects:

Improved mental health: Symptoms of depression and memory problems are comon. In fact, approximately seven million people over the age of 60, experience symptoms of depression  and it is estimated that dementia touches at least one in seven people over age 70.  Having consistent human contact and interaction can reduce both, recent studies revealed.

One such study, appearing in the Annals of Family Medicine, gathered 193 mature adults with depressive symptoms and provided either individualized physical activity or social visits for six consecutive months. Researchers concluded that: “Social contact may be as effective as physical activity in improving mood and quality of life” and “social participation and social support networks are paramount to long-term positive outcomes and psychological well-being.’

Another study that appeared in The American Journal of Public Health demonstrated that those aged 50 to 60 who were socially active had slower rates of declining memory. “The working hypothesis is that social engagement is what makes you mentally engaged,” Lisa F. Berkman, the study’s senior author, told the NY Times. The American Academy of Neurology studied the relationship between dementia, stress, and socialization and found that “people who are socially active and not easily stressed may be less likely to develop dementia”. 

Improved nutrition: The need for proper nutrition is vital, but healthy habits can be difficult to maintain when eating alone.  Socializing with others and sharing a meal is a motivator for better food choices.  Noone likes to eat alone on a regular basis and often meals are skipped or are not sufficient in nutrition.    

Improved physical health: Multiple studies have also revealed that an active social life can boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce physical pain that is reinforced by depression.

Strength in numbers: When it comes to socializing, the more the merrier. Those in large groups are more likely to encourage healthy habits among each other, including exercise, and there is always someone to talk to when you need support. 

How can those age 55+ stay socially connected?

While it’s comforting for mature adults to know they have family, sufficient social interaction includes participation or consistently engaging with others, the best being with peers.

Making that call or reaching out to join an organization can be difficult. It is often uncomfortable to step out of our current comfort zone.  It may take some gentle encouragement to get more socially involved, but the benefits of an active social lifestyle reach well into the future.

Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections provides numerous socializing opportunities through events and travel, quality members and new connections for age 55+, active and single adults.

http://www.silverconnections.org

The Importance Of Socializing And Friendship As We Age

 Socializing ranks right up there with diet and excercise on the “aging ladder” of importance. It’s been proven that those age 55+ who enjoy an active social life can extend their lives by years. Lack of socializing and friendships can lead to depression and even alcoholism, heart disease and cancer.  

There are an abundance of benefits for socializing other than life extension –stress reduction, a feeling of importance and high self esteem are just a few of the benefits. Keeping active also reduces the risk of mental diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Sometimes an individual must make the effort to become involved rather than waiting for someone to come to them. It can be especially difficult after being a part of a couple for many years and then being single again. Getting involved in the community or  joining a group can mean the difference in being depressed or enjoying a healthy mix of friendships and outside activities.  

Being around people who have the same interests especially help those age 55+  enjoy life even more. Laughing and creating new memories are the best medicine to keep from thinking and focusing on the negatives in life. Joining an activity that’s new or something challenging, is especially beneficial.

A new research study from Harvard University advocates that socializing for boomers and older has as much benefit as regular exercise. Feeling needed and helpful is extremely mind-lifting and can impact quite  positively an individual’s life.

It’s not surprising that as we age, socializing with others becomes more important than ever. We need contact with others who either share our interests and opinions or even have interests and opinions that are entirely new to us.

Remember the movie, Cast Away, when actor, Tom Hanks played a man alone on a desert island. He becomes so lonely that he creates a buddy by drawing a face on a ball he found. In the end, he mourned the loss of the ball much as we would a friend or family member. Deprived of socializing, we  feel isolated and alone.  But, having friends and  making those connections, can make all the difference in the world.

Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections promotes socializing opportunities for active, age 55+, single adults.

Happiness Spread Through Social Groups

      NIA-funded researchers have found that happiness is not an isolated  phenomenon, unique to an individual, but rather spreads through social networks. Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, Drs. Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School and James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego examined how social ties influence individuals’ mood and sense of well-being. They found that people who are involved in social groups and surrounded by happy people are more likely to be happy themselves.

The researchers looked at the happiness of nearly 5,000 individuals in the Framingham cohort during a period of 20 years. They found that one person’s happiness triggers a chain reaction that benefits not only their friends, but those they engage with.

The closer a friend lives to a person, the stronger the effect. As distance increases, the effect decreases. This explains why friends who are neighbors or those who see each other often through a social group, have an effect, but those who live far away, often do not.

Social organizations also give individuals activities to look forward to and the anticipation of being with others and connecting.  This can be a great way to ward of depression and the feeling of being isolated.  And, laughter shared with others, can have a most positive effect. 

People having comfortable social relationships – lots  of positive communications with others and social involvement – were 50 percent less likely to be ill compared to those who had infrequently social support. The study shows that social relations have a longevity effect tantamount to quitting smoking.  This is further evidence of how important social groups, friendship and happiness are to our health.

Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections provides numerous socializing opportunities through events and travel, quality members and new connections for age 55+, active and single adults.

http://www.silverconnections.org

 

Stay Connected And Avoid Loneliness: Prescription For Aging Well To 100

The U.S. News and World report just published a special edition magazine titled “How To Live To Be 100” which describes the healthy lifestyle choices that individuals can make to age well and not decline into frailty.  As the first baby boomers are approaching 65 and the “age wave” will continue, there are many who can live happy and healthy for many, many years.

Along with eating right, exercising, keeping your brain sharp and expanding your horizons, staying connected and avoiding loneliness was one of the top prescriptions cited for living to be a still vital centenarian. 

As the owner of Silver Connections, I have seen the positive impact that socializing, spending time with others and making new friends can have on those 55+, all who are single and the majority who live alone.

John Cacioppo, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago and coauthor of  the book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection  talked with U.S. News about the latest research on how relationships affect physical health. Edited excerpts:

Why did you choose to study loneliness?
We want to understand what importance our social connections have to people’s biology. Early in human history, our species’ survival required the protection of families and tribes. Isolation meant death. The painful feeling known as loneliness is a prompt to reconnect to others.

You say that social isolation has an impact on health comparable to high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, or smoking. Can you explain?
Loneliness shows up in measurements of stress hormones, immune function, and cardiovascular function. Lonely adults consume more alcohol and get less exercise than those who are not lonely. Their diet is higher in fat, their sleep is less efficient, and they report more daytime fatigue. Loneliness also disrupts the regulation of cellular processes deep within the body, predisposing us to premature aging.

You point out that, oddly enough, loneliness also makes us less socially adept. How?
Lonely adults have the same social skills as non lonely adults, but they don’t deploy them as appropriately. We think that lonely individuals feel threatened, and because of that feeling of threat, they’re not certain they can trust others. When you see something positive happening to others, you’re not sure if you’re included, so you’re aloof, demanding, or critical.

Is the solution to surround ourselves with people?
Loneliness isn’t necessarily a result of being alone. Think about a bereaved spouse and the college freshman going away from home for the first time. They can be around a lot of people but feel completely isolated. In humans, perceived isolation is so much more important than physical isolation.

People who go to church regularly live longer than nonchurchgoers. Why is that?
Churches can be very beneficial—one can feel connected to the group, the church, and to God. Those are actually different things, but both seem to have beneficial effect. 

How can each of us manage our own feelings of loneliness?
Just like hunger and thirst and pain, loneliness signals something important for the survival of your genes—the need for connection to other individuals. A loneliness response might tell you to pass up that promotion that requires that you rip yourself away from friends and family and move to another country. Or if you do move, you’ll know you have to say, OK, I will set up a system to maintain and restore those relationships.

When it comes to friendships, some people think that in order to be less lonely, everybody has to like them. That’s not true. It takes just one, two, or three people.

You say it is vitally important to connect with others,  but each person has his or her own comfort level with those connections. How does that work?
Humans have a need to be affirmed up close and personal.  We also have a need for a wider circle of friends and family, but we all know that close family connections can be a mixed blessing. And there’s a need to feel that we belong to a larger group. Many of us tend to ignore the collective part of social connection until there is an insult or threat. An example is how, right after 9/11, Americans felt very close to one another. There was a harmony and helpfulness that was really quite surprising.

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One thing vigorous 100-year-olds tend to have in common is that they have long cultivated connections with friends and community. So, join a group.  Call an old friend.  Find love.  When all is said and done, the best guarantee of a long and healthy life may truly be the connections we have with others.

Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections promotes socializing opportunities for active, age 55+, single adults.

Older Adults, Loneliness And The Holidays

Although the holiday season is supposed to be a time of sharing joy and good tidings, very often people—especially those who are older—find that, as the season unfolds, they feel progressively disappointed, stressed and sad.

There are many influencing factors that can contribute to seniors being at particular risk of suffering from the “holiday blues,” including:

  • Reminders of past losses of significant loved ones–Many seniors have survived a number of their cherished friends and family members and these losses often take on greater significance during the holidays.
  • Sadness over the contrast between “then” and “now”—For many older people, the memories of holidays past so outshine present day celebrations they feel unable to focus on or experience pleasure in the “now.”
  • Unrealistic expectations—the holidays can bring a host of expectations, such as family togetherness, festive events and feelings of expanded happiness. Reality too often falls short of these expectations, which can cause an individual to plummet to new lows of sadness, feelings of loneliness and despair.
  • Spending the holidays alone—Some seniors live by themselves and/or at a distance from friends and family and spend much, if not all, of the holidays alone. Grown children often become busy with their own social obligations and may not realize how much their parents or grandparents look forward to sharing time during the holidays with them.

If You Are An Older Adult Feeling Lonely This Hoiliday Season:  

The following strategies can be useful in helping to get around potential sources of the “holiday blues”:

  • Adjust your expectations—For example, if you think the perfect family get-together won’t be a part of this year’s holidays, keeping this realistic assumption in mind can help you avoid frustration when and if something should go wrong or be less than desirable when your family gets together.
  • Limit predictable sources of stress—If you feel the annual trappings of shopping, decorating, cooking and attending social events risks becoming overwhelming and stressful, limit the activities you commit to.
  • Seek new, enjoyable ways of getting physical exercise—Exercising, for example, aerobics, walking, skiing, hiking, yoga, or swimming can help burn away a lot of stress as well as the extra calories of holiday meals.
  • Get together with friends and family members—As much as possible, share the holidays with friends and family members in person, as well by phone, e-mail, and mail. The holiday season is also a good time to contact someone you have not heard from for awhile. For those who have recently suffered the loss of someone especially close, spend time with special friends and family with whom you can reminisce and share stories and cherished memories about your loved one.
  • Join a social group—Feelings of loneliness and isolation can often be remedied by participating in activities with others. This can also help in opening up the potential for making new friends.
  • Engage in volunteer activity—Helping others is a pretty foolproof method of making the holidays feel more meaningful. There are many volunteer organizations that need extra help during this time of year.
  • Adopt a pet—Many have found that assuming the responsibility of caring for and loving a pet brings new joy and companionship into their lives.
  • Remember that life brings changes–As families change and grow, traditions often need to adapt to the new configurations. While you can hold onto certain family rituals, for instance, a certain holiday activity or preparing a long-cherished family recipe, some traditions, such as everyone gathering at your house, may not be possible this year. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by comparing this year’s holiday season with the “good ol’ days.”

Though intense and unsettling, the holiday blues are usually short-lived and last a few weeks around the holidays.  The sadness usually subsides after the holiday season is over and the individual gets back to their normal routine. 

If you know of an older adult who is feeling sad this season, reach out to them.  You can help them to enjoy the present, reflect positively on the past, while encouraging them to stay connected to others. This may be the best gift you can offer them during the holidays.

Laura Kay House is the owner of  SILVER CONNECTIONS, a socializing group for single, active, age 55+ adults.  Numerous socializing opportunities are provided through local events and travel while stressing personal service and a sense of community within the membership.      www.silverconnections.org