According to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Academic Health System Research Group in New England, cultivating your relationships is among the top five tips for healthy aging. They state that 28% of older adults live alone and that living alone is the strongest risk factor for loneliness. As a result, their research has found that common life changes in older adulthood such as retirement, health issues, or the loss of a spouse may lead to social isolation.
Part of healthy aging is to put forth an effort to cultivate your relationships. Posturing ourselves to grow in relationship with others is always a challenging task and will require a lot of things from us. Yet, it is a healthy investment of our time and our self which yields many rewards.
For instance, wouldn’t it be a pleasant surprise to get mail from your grandchildren!? Well, if they are in their teenage years, they might be so busy with friends that they just can’t find the time. Surely you haven’t forgotten when you were a teenager! Send them a box of stationary with postage stamps already on the envelopes. Include your name and address on the envelopes if you want. This will encourage them to write you more often. Remember to tell them how much it means to you to receive notes from them!
I’d bet they would enjoy receiving mail from YOU, too! If it is a chore for you to write long letters, then get some small note cards. There are many beautiful or funny ones to choose from. It really is much easier to stay in contact with friends by writing just a quick note to let them know you are thinking of them and maybe even inviting them to come for a visit!
How long has it been since you phoned your friends? How wonderful it is to hear their voice, and for them to hear yours! You know, it takes just a minute to dial their number. You could even set up one day a week, every other week, once a month - to make your calls. There is no doubt that you will feel better after your conversation.
Remember, if you’re calling long-distance on a land line, you might want to set a timer by the phone to avoid an expensive bill at the end of the month.
Most cell phone plans offer free long-distance calling with unlimited minutes; others allow you to pre-purchase your minutes.
Cultivating may mean simply maintaining. Maintain communication with your family and friends, especially after a significant loss or life change. Schedule regular times to meet with friends and family – over coffee, during a weekly shared meal, or around a common interest. Reach out to others who might be isolated or feel lonely. Rediscover a mission in your life! Knowing you can make a difference in your life by changing someone else's life is what healthy aging is all about!