The researchers followed 1,600 adults who had an average age of 71 at the beginning of the study. They took into consideration their socioeconomic status and their overall health. Those people who self-identified as being lonely consistently died at a higher frequency over the six years of the study. During that period of time, 23 percent of the lonely people died; only 14 percent of those who were satisfied with their level of companionship died.
How Retirees can Increase their Socialization
Since loneliness can contribute to early death, it is important we take steps to make sure we do not become too isolated as we age ... which is easy to do when we no longer go to a job. Below are a few suggestions for increasing the time we spend around other people, particularly after we retire.
1. If you have relatives nearby, make sure you reach out to them and try to spend time together. Your adult children and grandchildren can immeasurably enrich your life. If you are not retired yet, but have older relatives or siblings who live in your area, plan activities which include them.
2. If you live in a mixed age community and no longer spend much time with your neighbors, make an effort to get to know them. An occasional block party or neighborhood ice cream social benefits people of all ages.
3. Find out if your community has a senior center. They often have exercise classes, parties, dances and, sometimes, low-cost lunches which seniors can enjoy in the company of other people.
4. Call your local community college to see if they offer classes for senior citizens. Many colleges offer emeritus classes which are either free or very low cost. Going to classes which you enjoy is a fun way to meet other people with similar interests. Suggest a few of you go out to lunch or for coffee either before or after your classes so you can get to know each other better.
5. Make an effort to join a club, organization or place of worship. Participating in these organizations can help you stay connected with other people. The more involved you are, the better off you will be. It is not enough to attend an occasional club meeting or church service. Volunteer. Join a committee. Go to social events. These experiences will enrich your life.
6. Regularly speak with your friends and neighbors. You may even want to set up a specific time every day, or several times a week, when you call and chat with a friend. If one of you doesn't answer and there is no explanation for the absence, agree that you will contact family members, a neighbor, or local police so someone will do a "welfare check" on you. It will bring you and your friends peace-of-mind if you all know that you are looking out for each other.
7. Do not rebel against the idea of moving to an independent or assisted living facility. While some people still have a negative image of these living arrangements, sometimes comparing them to old-style nursing homes, the truth is that most people thrive in these facilities. Today's senior housing facilities have a wide variety of fun amenities and provide an excellent opportunity to socialize and make friends.
Remember: Being sociable not only makes you happier and improves your outlook, but can prolong your life. The more involved you are with other people on a regular basis, the better off you will be.
If you want to learn more about common health issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire, changing family relationships, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
For an overview of retirement, watch for my book Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.
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