How to Keep Spirits Bright this Holiday Season
For many people, the winter holidays – including Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa – are happy times full of celebration and getting together with family and friends. But for others, including many seniors who live alone, the holidays can exacerbate feelings of loneliness.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 28 percent of people age 65 and older live alone. And even those who don’t live alone often feel lonely. A study conducted by the University of California, found that 43 percent of seniors report feeling lonely at least some of the time, even though only 18 percent of study participants lived alone.
Loneliness, as more researchers are beginning to discover, is not healthy. A Brigham Young University study conducted found that “the effect of [social isolation and loneliness] is comparable to obesity.” Lead study author Julianne Holt-Lunstad emphasizes that “we need to start taking our social relationships more seriously.”
In the spirit of increasing our opportunities for socialization, here are some ideas to help keep your spirits bright this holiday season.
Join a club for seniors
America’s population is aging, which has created a plethora of organizations dedicated to serving their needs, including creating opportunities for socialization. Visit your nearest senior center, place of worship or contact your local Area Agency on Aging. Or explore the possibilities for senior connections on meetup.com.
Join a support group
Perhaps the holidays are a reminder of a loved one you’ve lost or a physical challenge you’re facing. A support group is a great way to connect with others who are sharing a similar life experience. In addition to meeting others, you may gain some valuable information on ways to cope with the challenges you’re experiencing.
Volunteer for a cause you believe in
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people. Find something you’re passionate about – whether it’s animals or helping people or a politician running for office – and donate your time and energy to feeding that passion. You’ll not only meet other like-minded people, you’ll be creating a purpose to get out of bed in the morning, which may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and even extend your life. If you’d like to volunteer, but you’re not sure where to offer your services, visit volunteer.gov and look for opportunities in your area. There are always opportunities at senior living communities for volunteers. If you’re thinking of making a move to a senior community, this is a great way to see what life is like and meet the residents. If you already live in a community, this is a great way to meet your neighbors!
Connect with someone online
As we age, getting out of the house may become more challenging. Limited mobility may make going out to be around other people difficult. So, do the next best thing – connect online! A study from Michigan State University found that not only were seniors open to embracing technology, but it reduced loneliness and therefore, lowered participants’ risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.
Adopt a pet
There’s nothing quite like having a dog shower affection on you or curling up with a cat to ease loneliness. A study conducted at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that adults who were pet owners were 36 percent less likely than non-pet owners to describe feelings of loneliness. And walking a dog increases your opportunities to meet others. All Era Living communities accept pets.
Make socializing a priority
Just as with most things in life, anything worthwhile often requires some effort. Connecting with others is a critical component of aging well. So make connecting with others a priority, just as you would with any other health routine.