Growing Up In The 1950s

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Many members of the Silver Connections group were born or grew up in the 1950s and if they were born in 1946 or after, are part of  the ‘Baby Boom’ generation.

Almost exactly nine months after World War II ended, “the cry of the baby was heard across the land,” as historian Landon Jones later described the trend.  Many of the soldiers that came home from WWII settled down and had families. After the depression and years of war, life seemed peaceful and secure. More babies were born in 1946 than ever before: 3.4 million, 20 percent more than in 1945. This was the beginning of the so-called ‘baby boom.’ In 1947, another 3.8 million babies were born; 3.9 million were born in 1952.

The United States in the 1950s was also the world’s strongest military power. The GI Bill enabled many men to obtain a college education. The US economy was booming, and the fruits of this prosperity–new cars, suburban houses and other consumer goods–were available to more people than ever before.

 

If you were raised in the 1950’s, these may apply to you:

Home was a safe haven—no need for a security system. Many families never locked their doors.

You could walk or ride your bike alone to school, and your mom would be at home when you got there after school.

Homework aside, you could play until just before 6, when the family would sit down together for a planned supper.

You knew your parents loved you, even though at times it might have felt (literally) like a tough love—ever get spanked with a wooden spoon? Your parents were consistent, always wanting something better for you than what they had for themselves growing up.

There was no Nintendo, PlayStation, x-boxes, video games or iPods in the 1950’s. No cell phones, computers or TV’s in bedrooms. No idea what the internet, chat rooms or Facebook would be!

You had friends your own age, who most likely lived in your neighborhood.  You knew their families and they knew yours.

You had record players for your 45 RPMs.

There were trees to climb and fall out of, without suing anyone when you did.

You may have had packets of baseball cards, with a slab of gum the same size. How about hula hoops, the Mickey Mouse Club and Howdy Doody Time on TV or your lunchbox with milk in a carton.

You may have drunk out of a garden hose and no one thought it was dirty.

You may have had a one-foot deep plastic swimming pool that took forever o fill.

Your telephone number may have had a lettered prefix you had to memorize, like Sunset 2- 4848.

You used big cardboard boxes to build forts in the back yard in a tree.

Do you remember fireflies, milk in glass bottles delivered to your house each day, board games like Candyland and Monopoly, chalk for the sidewalk and a game of hopscotch or jacks?

Bazooka bubble gum with a comic inside and your own wrist watch, with maybe Davy Crockett, Mickey or Minnie Mouse on the dial?

How about family vacations and road trips each summer, waiting an hour after eating before you could go swimming, playing outside after supper each night in summer until your Mom called you in?

Did you always run so hard you were out of breath or laugh so hard that your sides hurt?

How about S&H green stamps from the grocery store and gas stations, licking the backs and pasting them in a book?

Watching a drive-in movie on a Friday night, 15 cent burgers from McDonald’s or roller skates.

 

Beginning in 1935, Polling Company AIPO spent decades ringing strangers up and asking them how happy they were—a move that actually yielded usable data. The fifties saw a surge of people claiming they were very happy, peaking between 1955 and 1960 at around forty percent. That’s the highest it’s ever been.  This isn’t just ‘happy’ but ‘very happy’. A different study measuring average happiness across the decades also placed the fifties as peak smiling time.

For all these positive attributes about this decade, and there were many, what were the negatives?  Racial discrimination and segregation existed. Women were expected to stay at home, be a wife and raise the children. There were puritanical attitudes toward sex. Families were still hurting from the loss of brothers, fathers and sons from the war. There was the McCarthy era, where thousands of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers.

If you were born and/or raised in the 1950’s – was it a happier, simpler decade?

Was being a child in the 1950’s ideal?

If the consensus of the 1950’s being a stable, harmonious decade is true for many, it appeared to be one that did not last long.  It seemed to crumble for good during the tumultuous 1960’s and the “me” decade of the 1970’s.

 

A look at a family dinner in 1950-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8kJzBJrOkU

 

 

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, personal service, quality members and connections for age 55+ (mostly Boomers!) active and single adults. 

 

SILVER CONNECTIONS WEBSITE:

www.silverconnections.org

 

 

Blog Contributors:  Baby Boomers  R We, History Channel and Listverse

 

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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.

A Christmas Tree Star

A story of lasting love and a sweet read for the holidays-  

Author – Susan Graham

This was my grandmother’s first Christmas without Grandfather, and we had promised him before he passed away that we would make this her best Christmas ever.

When my mom, dad, three sisters and I arrived at her little house in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, we found she had waited up all night for us to arrive from Texas. After we exchanged hugs, Donna, Karen, Kristi and I ran into the house. It did seem a little empty without Grandfather, and we knew it was up to us to make this Christmas special for her.

Grandfather had always said that the Christmas tree was the most important decoration of all. So,we immediately set to work assembling the beautiful artificial tree that was stored in Grandfather’s closet. Although artificial, it was the most genuine-looking Douglas fir I had ever seen. Tucked away in the closet with the tree was a spectacular array of ornaments, many of which had been my father’s when he was a little boy. As we unwrapped each one, Grandmother had a story to go along with it.

My mother strung the tree with bright white lights and a red button garland; my sisters and I carefully placed the ornaments on the tree; and finally, my Father was given the honor of lighting the tree. We stepped back to admire our handiwork. To us, it looked magnificent, as beautiful as the tree in Rockefeller Center. But something was missing.

“Where’s your star?” I asked. The star was my grandmother’s favorite part of the tree. “Why, it must be here somewhere,” she said, starting to sort through the boxes again. “Your grandfather always packed everything so carefully when he took the tree down.” As we emptied box after box and found no star, my grandmother’s eyes filled with tears. This was no ordinary ornament, but an elaborate golden star covered with colored jewels and blue lights that blinked on and off. Moreover, Grandfather had given it to Grandmother some fifty years ago, on their first Christmas together. Now, on her first Christmas without him, the star was gone, too.

Don’t worry, Grandmother,” I reassured her. “We’ll find it for you.”
My sisters and I formed a search party. Let’s start in the closet where the ornaments were,” Donna said. “Maybe the box just fell down.”
That sounded logical, so we climbed on a chair and began to search that tall closet of Grandfather’s. We found my Father’s old yearbooks and photographs of relatives, Christmas cards from years gone by, and party dresses and jewelry boxes, but no star.

We searched under beds and over shelves, inside and outside, until we had exhausted every possibility. We could see Grandmother was disappointed, although she tried not to show it.

“We could buy a new star,” Kristi offered.
“I’ll make you one from construction paper,” Karen chimed in.
“No, it is OK” Grandmother said. “This year, we won’t have a star.”
By now, it was dark outside, and time for bed, as Santa would soon be here. We lay in bed, snowflakes falling quietly outside.

The next morning, my sisters and I woke up early, to see what Santa had left under the tree. After a traditional breakfast of apple pancakes, the family sat down together to open presents.

Santa had brought me the Easy-Bake Oven I wanted, and Donna a Chatty-Cathy doll. Karen was thrilled to get the doll buggy she had asked for, and Kristi to get the china tea set. Father was in charge of passing out the presents, so that everyone would have something to open at the same time.

“The last gift is to Grandmother from Grandfather,” he said, in a puzzled voice. “From who?” There was surprise in my grandmother’s voice. “I found that gift in Grandfather’s closet when we got the tree down,” Mother explained. “It was already wrapped so I put it under the tree. I thought it was one of yours.”

“Hurry and open it,” Karen urged excitedly. My grandmother shakily opened the box. Her face lit up with joy when she unfolded the tissue paper and pulled out a glorious golden star. There was a note attached. Her voice trembled as she read it aloud. “Don’t be angry with me, dear. I broke your star while putting away the decorations, and I couldn’t bear to tell you. Thought it was time for a new one. I hope it brings you as much joy as the first one. Merry Christmas. Love, Bryant”

So Grandmother’s tree had a star after all, a star that expressed my grandparents’ everlasting love for one another. It brought my grandfather home for Christmas in each of our hearts.

Socializing Is Important To Avoid Or Reduce Aging Diseases

If you did not have an active social life in the early parts of your life, chances are that you will become even more socially withdrawn as you get older, and probably more inclined than ever to stay home alone.

But, did you know an active social life can help you to prevent some aging diseases?

Socializing ranks right up there with diet and exercise on the “aging” ladder of importance. Sometimes, when an individual retires or a spouse dies, friends withdraw simply because the person doesn’t fit in anymore with their lifestyles.

Rather than keeping busy and finding other friends or methods of socializing, seniors often develop depression which can lead to other diseases such as alcoholism, heart disease and even cancer.

It’s been proven that individuals who enjoy an active social life can extend their lives by years. 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 seniors must make the effort to become involved rather than waiting for someone to come to them. Getting involved in the community or other organizations can mean the difference in isolation and depression or enjoying a healthy mix of friendships and outside activities.

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

Most of us rely on human contact for our very survival, unlike other species in the animal kingdom. From the time we’re born and depend on our mother and father to feed and take care of us until the later years, when we still need others. 

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 have interests and opinions that are entirely new to us.

Remember that when you socialize with others in your age group, you are also helping others as much as you are helping yourself, so feel free to become a regular ‘social butterfly’ to assist in staying healthy, connected and happy in the “55 and better” years!

Memory and Social Interaction

If you can’t remember where you put your keys….find them and then go meet friends for dinner!

Strong social ties, through friends and community groups, can preserve our brain health as we age while social isolation is an important risk factor for cognitive decline in those age 50 and over.

Socializing with people is a form of exercise that requires attention, effort and alertness, all of which are important aspects of memory. Of course, socializing is also an important feature of preventing or reducing depression.

Information is stored in different parts of memory. Information stored in short-term memory may include the name of a person you met today while information stored in your remote or long-term memory includes things stored years ago, such as memories of childhood.

When you’re in your 20s, you begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make less of the chemicals your brain cells need to work. The older you are, the more these changes can affect your memory.A memory problem is serious when it affects your daily living. If you sometimes forget names, you’re probably okay. But you may have a more serious problem if you have trouble remembering how to do things you’ve done many times before, getting to a place you’ve been to often, or doing things that requires steps. Certain medications, stress-related activities, injuries and other factors may also cause memory loss.

Aging may affect memory by  not only changing the way the brain stores information and by making it harder to recall stored information.

Another difference between normal memory problems and dementia (a more serious type of memory loss) is that normal memory loss doesn’t get much worse over time. Dementia may get much worse over several months to several years.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health used data gathered from six years of data from the Health and Retirement Study, a large, nationally representative population of American adults ages 50 and older. Participants took memory tests at two-year intervals during the study period. Testers read a list of 10 common nouns to survey respondents, who were then asked to recall as many words as possible immediately and again after a five-minute delay. The researchers also measured social integration and engagement in activities with others.

The results showed that individuals who in their 50s and 60s who engage in a lot of social activity also had the slowest rate of memory decline. In fact, compared to those who were the least socially active, study subjects who had the highest social integration scores had less than half the rate of memory loss.

“The working hypothesis is that social engagement is what makes you mentally engaged,” said Lisa F. Berkman, the study’s senior author and director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. “You can’t sit and withdraw if you’re constantly talking and engaging with others. It’s not just completing a crossword puzzle, it’s living your life.”

One of the most difficult challenges for mature adults is maintaining or finding relationships with people from their generation who share their interests, experiences and hobbies.  Whether you are retired or not, there are many things you can do to prevent  loneliness and make connections with others.  It can be as easy as joining a group with interests that match your own.  This social interaction is essential to healthy brain health.

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” –  James Matthew Barrie

Caregiving And The Importance Of A Social Network

When a person takes on the responsibility of taking care of an ill family member, it is a job that can very easily consume them.  The most common caregivers are ones that take care of a sick parent or spouse.  

Caregiving can be stressful and may contribute to serious depression. A substantial body of research shows that family members who provide care to individuals with chronic or disabling conditions are themselves at risk. Emotional, mental, and physical health problems arise from complex caregiving situations and the strains of caring for an ill relative.

The child or spouse is immersed in their family member’s illness and they can easily feel a sense of isolation.  Caregiver burn-out is common and it is important to avoid this sense of aloneness.  

Socializing with others can have a positive effect on caregiver stress. Arrangements can be made for the caregiver to take a break from caregiving to attend socializing events, possibly be enlisting the help of other family members, friends or a daycare center.  Socializing is vital to relieve stress and possible caregiver depression.

The positive effects of socializing include:

Having social activities to look forward to give a caregiver something to see in the future beyond the day to day chores.

Spending time with people helps ward off loneliness and knowing one is not all alone helps with stress.

Having people who enjoy your company and consider you a friend, reinforces your feeling of being a good person to spend time with.     

Attending a movie, theater production, book club or other activity, takes a caregiver’s mind off of responsibilities and focuses on another interest they may have.

Dining with a group of people who are happy and enjoying fun conversation, proves that laughter can be the best medicine!   

Engaging with others can stimulate thoughts and clear one’s mind.

Meeting others who are also caregivers or who have been caregivers in the past, who can offer support and advice.

Caretaking is not something that has to be taken on solely alone. Just because an individual is taking care of an ill parent or spouse does not mean that interaction with others has to stop.  This is the time that caregivers need a social network and connections more than ever.

Courage

After being one-half of a couple for decades, those who find themselves single again after age 55, can face incredible loneliness and despair.  Whether it is because of death of a spouse or divorce, starting over again alone can cause overwhelming  anxiety.  

Everyone deals with their grief in their own way. Many find that meeting with others who are also suffering through a loss, is a help.  Others find time with family is a way to cope, while others spend hours alone dealing with their sorrow.

It takes time to adjust to the absence of a long-time partner in any situation, but there will eventually come a time when the sadness lifts and an individual is ready to enjoy social activities again.  They realize that they may have 15-20 years of life left to live.  Many times the friends that they currently have are married or having moved to a new city to be close to family, but knowing no-one else, can be isolating.

I have met many individuals in my work  that are in the very beginning stages of this process. When I first meet with them, you can see the sadness in their eyes and tone as they discuss their partner who is no longer with them.  But, at the same time, I see the willingness and desire to begin their life again while no longer being part of a couple.   Whether because of a death or divorce, they are trying to reinvent themselves alone, after 55.

This is where the courage comes in.

How many remember having to do something for the first time and the anxiety that comes with it?  If you are on the shy or introverted side, it makes it even harder.  Did you ever have to move and start a new school where you did not know anyone?    Or, how about going away to college or starting a new job where you were all alone?   Who will I talk to?  Will everyone be friends and I will be ignored?   Will they like me?  Do I know how to act in this new environment?

Add those types of fears onto someone who is older, who is attempting to make new friends and engage in life without their “other half” for the first time in many, many years.  

It is much easier to stay home and feel safe, wrapped in the memories of the partner who they are living without.  It takes courage to do what is necessary to go on.

I have seen time after time how difficult it is the first time one of my Silver Connections members attends their first event.   How easy it would be to turn away and just leave!  They consider it, they begin to turn back, but they don’t. 

In spite of the fear and the anxiety, they know it is time. They will never forget the memories of the past or the person they shared such a large part of their life with.  They put their hand on the door, open it,  and with courage….begin to take the first steps to live life again.

“You’ve Got To Have Friends” The Importance of Socializing For Those Age 55+

There was a song that was made popular by Bette Midler in 1973 called “You’ve Got To Have Friends”.  Friendships and socializing with others is important at any age, but especially in the 55+ years.   

I would like to tell you about a lady that I know named Jane.  At 70 years old, she has a vibrant social circle.  Though she has been widowed for many years, has at times struggled financially and has lost a son, she is rarely lonely.  Her friends and her social interaction has kept a sparkle in her eye, warmth in her laughter and bounce in her step.  Jane is a perfect example that one of the secrets of successful aging lies in our friendships with others.   

Not everyone has the social structure that Jane has; whether it is because of relocation, divorce, widowhood, retirement, or just a shift in friendships, both men and women may suffer from loneliness as they grow older. How can social interaction affect overall well-being?  

Having lots of friends and social connections is very good for your mental and physical health. A massive study of 4,725 age 55+ randomly selected residents of Alameda County in California found that those with the fewest close friends and social connections had mortality rates that were two to three times higher than those with high levels of social connectedness. Also, life expectancy tables show a difference of nine years between people with very poor social connections and those with very good ones. Friendships and continued socializing as we age creates a feeling of belonging, a buffer against stress and a sense of purpose in feeling needed by our friends. When a friend reflects to us that we are loved and valued, our thoughts about ourselves rise in a corresponding matter.  

Close friendships, through protection against isolation, provides benefits such as maintaining the elasticity of blood vessels, maintaining healthier blood pressures and lowering cardiac inflammatory protein levels. Friendships can also encourage health–promoting behaviors like proper sleep and exercise, and friends will let you know when they don’t approve of your smoking or eating too much.  Friends also help out when you need a ride to the doctor or bring over soup when you have a cold.  

Scientists have long observed that a lack of social interaction and friends, by contrast, is also major risk factor for disease and early death, comparable to high blood pressure, obesity, and other serious health risks. “Being socially isolated is comparable to the negative effects of smoking for your health,” says James Coan, PhD, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Virginia. “Lonely people tend to react more intensely to life’s problems and feel more threatened by a difficult situation. This in turn may cause high blood pressure, increase in heart rate, sleep disturbance and depression. “ 

 Scientists are also finding out that we are hardwired to seek out others. Too much alone time and our bodies send out distress signals. When a person feels lonely, their brain responds by increasing the levels of the hormone cortisol. Over a long period of time, this hormone can harm us by destroying neurons that affect memory and interfere with sleep.  When people experience social exclusion, it activates the same region of the brain when we’re physically hurt.  Humans require others to survive and feel distress when they are isolated. 

 My friend Jane lives so well as she has grown older because she cultivated her old friends and has stimulated her mind by getting to know new ones.  She has never forgotten, beyond anything else, that we all truly need each other.