02 Mar The Importance of Staying Connected
is author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So. California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); Town & Gown “Phenomenal Woman” Award; former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker, contributing author for “Savvy Women Revving Up for Success”; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. www.janfowler.com. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message on her website.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, the following true life story of how one couple discovered love and romance in later life is excerpted from Jan Fowler’s newest book, Hot Chocolate for Senior Romance ~How great It Is!
“The Importance of Staying Connected”
by Jan Fowler
In 2017, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as the 19thSurgeon General of the United States, wrote the following in the Harvard Business Review. “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart attack or diabetes; it was loneliness…I found that loneliness was often in the background of clinical illness, contributing to disease and making it harder for patients to cope and heal.”
“Wow!” was my initial reaction. Since then, the loneliness epidemic has been getting lots of attention. In fact, based on a ton of studies involving millions of people the literature is now overflowing with reports that loneliness should indeed be avoided like the plague because it’s true–it can kill you!
Aging is everyone’s business because it impacts health and is most definitely a universal concern.
Isolation and loneliness can be devastating. But I never knew before now that people in retirement die 45% sooner if they’re lonely, did you? Doctors, counselors, and psychologists are now declaring loneliness as extremely hazardous to our health.
The facts are that loneliness is a risk factor for illness. Loneliness weakens the immune system, raises blood pressure, increases our risk for heart attack and stroke, leads to depression—which can, in turn, lead to suicide. And now we’re learning that loneliness also contributes to the onset of dementia.
But here’s the good news. By contrast, older people with strong ties to family and friends have a 50% lowerrisk of dying! Which convinces me that it’s most important to stay connected to others in later life.
And so one of the greatest issues facing seniors today is loneliness, which was the basic motivation behind my recent book, “Hot Chocolate for Senior Romance ~ How Sweet It Is!” The truth is that there are more people who are single today than married in the United States. And our older generation represents the fastest-growing segment of our population.
To be sure, many of us are living longer lives, but are we living better lives? Meaning, do we have someone to share our life with, go places with and talk to? Many years ago when our babies were born, we were told that babies who were touched and talked to thrived better. Well, it’s not just babies who need that gentle touch. People of everyage—especially seniors—benefit from being close enough to someone to reach out and get a hug.
Nobody should be alone because life is empty when it’s filled with lonely days and empty nights.
I feel that all of us need to work together to help older Americans stay connected to other people. My hope is to start many conversations about how to promote the socialization of boomers and seniors and assist them in staying connected to others.
We all know someone who may be headed to the same meeting, music program, art show, or church service as us who would just love to hear us ask if we could pick them up and give them a ride so they don’t have to go alone. I am happy to say that I am learning about teenage groups who are now forming nonprofit corporations to show outreach to seniors by visiting them, taking them out for an ice cream, or even to a Friday night high school game. This is what we need more of!
So if you know someone who is lonely, please encourage them to volunteer in their community, take a class—and it doesn’t matter what it is—and just get out and go places.
We are seeing new streams of activism in our country today. And here’s another one. For anyone seeking new purpose or philanthropy for your service club, I suggest considering how to help stamp out loneliness among our over 50 or 60 crowd.
I happen to be both widowed and divorced and I recall many lonely days (and empty nights) before I met David, which taught me to reach out and show compassion to others who are alone. I also learned that by being silent I could not help anyone.
This topic is so important that it belongs right up there with other major concerns such as healthcare, social justice, and stem cell research.
Hopefully, we can all try to stimulate conversations about how to encourage older people to stay connected to others and prevent them from suffering from not having anyone to talk to and go places with. Loneliness in retirement is not only dreary, but can be deadly.
Thank you for your help.