The winter holiday season is upon us... And with it, one of the busiest times of year.
Stores are filled with shoppers, planes are full of folks, and traffic jams become more commonplace than usual as travelers hit the roads.
For most of us, this is a bustling time of year filled with excitement, joy, and the warmth of good company.
But for others, it's a very lonely time...
And many of the lonely are beloved parents and grandparents... Folks who have lived long, meaningful, and active lives now find themselves feeling very alone and isolated. Maybe this is you I'm talking about.
Turns out, loneliness is pretty common... A 2021 survey from insurance giant Cigna shows that more than half of adults in the U.S. report feeling lonely. If we're just looking at seniors, a little over 40% say they're lonely.
And researchers from Duke University say that there's often a discrepancy in what someone expects from a social relationship and what they actually get from that relationship. A study published earlier this month found that these expectations can change across the lifespan... meaning what we expect to get from social connections in our thirties and forties is different from what we expect once we reach our sixties and seventies.
Notably, the researchers found that there's an important piece missing in the current efforts to combat loneliness in seniors – two age-specific expectations that have been overlooked:
- Older adults want to feel respected, listened to, and like they're able to pass along the wisdom gained from their life experiences.
- Older adults want to give back and make meaningful contributions to their communities.
This is a problem we uncovered as well. Most advice we found was geared toward a younger population... tips and tidbits that seemed like they would be further isolating to someone during a later stage in life, when some level of adaptability may be more necessary than it was before...
Let's face it... As you get older, your health changes. You may experience more physical ailments which will have an impact on your mood. It's hard to be pleasant or nice to other people when you're in pain or fear... And having fewer friends around who have known you throughout your life can contribute to your sense of isolation.
So we called upon an expert, Judy – a practicing therapist with nearly 50 years of experience who has been fortunate to live in very good health well into her seventies. And according to Judy...
Anybody who lives into their seventies is an expert at some level because they've seen and lived through so many things... I'm no "life expert" though, I'm still practicing... At about 72 or 73, a lot of people – including me – went through a point in their lives when they realize, "Oh God, here I am... what now?"
Erik Erikson – the famous developmental psychologist – said that at this stage in your life (beginning around age 65 and ending when you die), you typically reflect on your life and accomplishments... and as a result, you face either ego integrity (acceptance and a feeling of wholeness) or despair. Judy says:
You have to come to terms with the mistakes you've made and the things you haven't gotten right. It's important to make peace with that, and try and be compassionate with yourself. Realize it has taken all these years of experience to get to this stage of wisdom. Along the way, you've probably made mistakes and disappointed others. And you're in a different developmental stage than your children are, so you can't really expect them to understand what it's like for you. But you still have time to be kind to yourself and kind to others.
Judy shared three important tips for seniors who want to feel less lonely and more respected:
- Having (or building) self-compassion is essential.
- Giving your time in little ways can have a huge influence on others.
- Remember that no one gets out of here alive... You're going to die someday, so try to value the things that will live on after you and be charitable.
And as far as ideas for how to contribute, look for ways to teach, mentor, volunteer, or care for others that you find meaningful. You could sign up to hold sick babies at the hospital or read to children at a local school. You could find career mentorship opportunities or volunteer for any professional organization that you belong to. And you could call someone you know who's not able to get out of the house and have a conversation with them. Or send out postcards from an old collection that you have lying around the house.
And don't lose contact with other folks your age. They offer mutual support and perspective. So if you don't already have a close-knit circle of friends, make some new contacts at your local senior center or your chosen spiritual organization.
As our lifespans increase, we need to take the time to work on increasing our healthspans – the time folks have at nearly full health, not battling disease or decline.
In this report, I share my top five ideas, based on the latest clinical research and technology.
Do them, and I guarantee you'll see some improvements. For instance, you'll experience less inflammation – and thus fewer aches and pains.
And that's just the beginning of the benefits.
In Prosperity Investor, my team of experts and I explore the huge opportunity as the health care sector and technology take off over the coming years... through investing, becoming better health care consumers, and improving our overall health.
If you're ready to improve your health and put more money in your pocket, click here to learn more.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: The surprising benefits of "blue spaces."
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
November 29, 2022