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.

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!

These Things I Wish for You

If you have read the following essay before, you may attribute it to Paul Harvey.  However, Mr. Harvey did not write it.  The true author is Lee Pitts, who had it published in the 2000 “Chicken Soup For The Golden Soul” collection.

Paul Harvey used this particular essay (crediting Pitts) during a September 6, 1997 broadcast. Listeners loved it and it has since become a classic and been passed between grandparent to grandchild, parent to child, friend to friend.

 

THESE THINGS I WISH FOR YOU

“We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them worse. For my grandchildren, I’d like better. I’d really like them to know about hand me down clothes and homemade ice cream and leftover meat loaf sandwiches. I really would. I hope you learn humility by being humiliated, and that you learn honesty by being cheated. I hope you learn to make your own bed and mow the lawn and wash the car. And I really hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen. It will be good if at least one time you can see puppies born and your old dog put to sleep.

I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in, I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother. And it’s all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he wants to crawl under the covers with you because he’s scared, I hope you let him. I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you live in a town where you can do it safely.

On rainy days when you have to catch a ride, I hope you don’t ask your driver to drop you two blocks away so you won’t be seen riding with someone as uncool as your Mom. If you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to make one instead of buying one. I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books. When you learn to use computers, I hope you also learn to add and subtract in your head.

I hope you get teased by your friends when you have your first crush on a girl, and when you talk back to your mother that you learn what ivory soap tastes like. May you skin your knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on a stove, and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole. I don’t care if you try a beer once, but I hope you don’t like it. And if a friend offers you dope or a joint, I hope you realize he is not your friend. I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with your Grandpa and go fishing with your Uncle.

May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy during the holidays. I hope your mother punishes you when you throw a baseball through your neighbor’s window and that she hugs you and kisses you at Christmas time when you give her a plaster mold of your hand. These things I wish for you – tough times and disappointment, hard work and happiness. To me, it’s the only way to appreciate life.”

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.

“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.