Reach Out! Re-Connect! Remain!
Chances are, when you welcomed the new year, you set some new goals and aspirations. And you may have looked back and wondered, “What happened?!”
A frequent refrain among older adults is the increasingly fast passage of time. While time doesn’t really go faster, it seems to do so. There are many scientific explanations for the phenomenon. The most recent studies suggest that, among other things, we pay less attention to time as we age.
According to a 2013 Scientific American article:
- We gauge time by memorable events.
- The amount of time passed is relative to one’s age.
- Our biological clock slows as we age.
- The older we get, the more time we have behind us rather than before us, and that time is compressed.
So, one way to capture or hold on to fleeting time might be to create more memorable events! This calls on us to get out, reach out, and …
Our need for relationships doesn’t end at age 55 or any other age. Some say that loneliness and isolation have become “the new smoking”—the hot social and health issue today. According to a 2015 Brigham Young University study, social isolation among older people accounts for more than a 25 percent rise in early demise. In another study, 40 percent of people aged 62 to 91 reported that they are occasionally or regularly lonely.
Limited discretionary income for dining out, movies, or other fun activities lends to loneliness. Be on the lookout for senior discounts for meals, movies, and a variety of other things. Not sure? Ask!
Aging in place, while desirable, can be isolating. Carefully consider housing options with that in mind. Being single (widowed, divorced, unpartnered) and not being otherwise connected or engaged can present challenges later in life.
Stay connected with friends—and make new ones. Geography can be a barrier to interaction with adult children and their families, friends, and former colleagues. Work out creative ways to connect, either in person or online. One easy way to reconnect is to make a phone call. Call a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while. Catch up with what’s been going on in each other’s lives. Make future plans.
And let’s not forget the power of the World Wide Web. If you’re able, go online—explore Facebook, learn to Skype (I just did!), and join online forums. Visit www.aarp.com and see what opportunities and adventures there are for older adults. Contact your local senior center to see what’s on their calendar. Need more information? Contact Community Living Connections (1-844-348-5464) for information or resources.
If you’re not yet comfortable one-on-one with your computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet, consider taking a class. There are beginner classes at your local library, community center and/or senior center.
These minimal steps at minimizing social isolation will go a long way toward insuring that you …
If you’re eligible for Medicare, use your Welcome to Medicare benefit. The annual visit is free. Use the longer visit appointment with your primary care physician to discuss general health concerns before they become acute or chronic conditions.
This annual exam will provide a baseline snapshot of your health from year to year. One of the keys to longevity is early detection of serious illness. Use this visit to get current on the core preventive health services. At a minimum, do what your doctor says. If you disagree, have concerns, or unanswered questions, discuss them. Talk about elder abuse or mental or physical neglect, if they are an area of concern. If you’re not at ease with your health care provider, don’t feel listened to or valued, get a new one.
Your health care provider is an important partner in your health care. YOU are the other one. Your good health is the #1 priority and, ultimately, you are in charge.
This is a particularly good month to learn all you can about falls prevention, heart disease, and stroke. And take appropriate action. It’s never too late. Those actions could contribute to your ability to live independently and self-sufficiently for as long as possible.
Contributor Lynda Hunter, Aging and Disability Services, has written numerous articles for AgeWise King County—most recently Tenant Rights for Older Adults: The Basics(November 2018).
This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of AgeWise King County.