We live in a world that operates on time. Aging is the name we have given our personal relationship with time. After centuries of personal experience and scientific observation, humanity has defined social norms that explain aging trends and establish expectations. Most people come to accept these expectations and live their life with these expectations in the front or back of their mind. However, we never have to look far to find exceptions to the trends, nor do we have to go too far back in time to see that trends and expectations shift.
Imagine for a moment that we, and those we care for, are completely free of any aging expectations. We are free to paint a picture of aging to our complete liking. Given freedom to age as we like, wouldn’t it be nice to feel honored, valued, heard and appreciated for all our years of experience? Wouldn’t it be nice if more time in our bodies and minds made life better, not worse? Wouldn’t it be nice to be surrounded by friendships that feel uplifting and sustainable? Wouldn’t it be nice to be engaged in activities that contribute in meaningful ways? Wouldn’t we want more than a long life? Wouldn’t we want a quality life?
To make such a leap may seem impossible, but we have the tools to assist us in taking an improved approach to aging. Awareness of where we are versus where we want to be is one of our most powerful tools. Another powerful to bring about quality aging is our relationships and interactions with others!
Let's be "Real" for a minute
Realistically, most of us thinking about quality aging are already well along the path, and momentum is carrying us swiftly through well-defined social expectations. By the time we realize aging is something we should be mindful of, we are feeling the aches and pains, sleeping poorly, feeling overworked and undervalued, experiencing vision and hearing loss, all while caring for those who feel even worse off than us. Often, by the time we realize we want quality aging, it feels “too late”. But it’s not! Science has discovered something powerful to combat the physical and mental conditions of aging as we know them—human interaction.
Uninvited conditions don’t Have to lead to isolation
Social isolation is an objective state where a person does not have many, if any, people to interact with. It manifests itself physically. Someone who lives alone rarely leaves the house, and goes for days at a time without talking to another person is socially isolated. They may or may not feel lonely.
Most people don’t consciously choose to live in social isolation, and would feel lonely if they did. However, as people age, uninvited illness, hearing loss or other disabilities, change of residence, or death of a loved one can put socially inclined individuals in positions of sudden social isolation. Then loneliness sets in.
Loneliness is a subjective state of painful emotion. Loneliness is not depression, but can quickly lead to depression, putting one’s quality aging goals practically out of view.
Making the case for sociality
There is an important link between “being social” and “quality aging.” This means that when those unexpected events occur, such as falling, illness, disability, relocation, or a death, we can’t afford to let ourselves, or those we care for, retreat into isolation.
Studies reveal that sociality is our first line of defense when it comes to quality aging because it:
- Gives us a sense of purpose and belonging
- Increases self-esteem and confidence
- Can motivate us to eat better and exercise
- Fosters faster recovery from illness and injury
- Improves our mood
- Improves self-awareness
- Assists with better sleep
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lessens depression
- Challenges the mind
- Provides inspiration
- Lowers risk for dementia
- Helps us live longer
Invite those you are caring for to ask themselves, “Is it possible that I am retreating into isolation?” Encourage them to be honest. Help them to be aware of the risks associated with social isolation. Then help them to reach out and connect with people, both face-to-face and by telephone, to eliminate loneliness
Note: This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from research. The view expressed here are not necessarily those of the ICAA, we encourage you to make your own health and business decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified professional.