Wellness With Aging: Ideas for dealing with loneliness

Before starting this column, I want to share how after much soul-searching and discussion we have changed the name of this column. Our new name is “Wellness With Aging,” as we believe the new title better describes the topics I write about — and will continue writing about.

Please note the new email address below. Thank you one and all for your faithful support and encouragement.

Humans were created for relationship and with the various holidays in February it is a good month to write about how important our human connections truly are. According to a 2021 Harvard report, 36 percent of the American population experiences chronic loneliness which can cause major health problems both physically and mentally.

The American Psychological Association defines loneliness as a cognitive discomfort or uneasiness from being, or perceiving, oneself as being alone. It is the emotional stress felt when our inherent needs for companionship are not met.

Loneliness is universal, something we all feel at one time or another and each of us reacts differently to this emotion.

The concern is when loneliness becomes chronic. There is no one cause of loneliness. The reasons are many and include situations like living alone, a change in one’s living situation, a lack of close relationships and poor health or the death of a loved one.

We need to remember there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. The issue is in feeling lonely, not in being alone. People have felt lonely even in a crowded room.

Much has been written on how loneliness has a negative effect on us, both physically and mentally. This month I wish to focus on the positive effects of healthy relationships and share a few ideas on how to create more.

The health benefits of positive relationships are countless, especially for senior citizens. A few of those healthy effects are an increase in brain function, a more normal heart rate and more energy. Senior citizens who have strong, healthy connections are more satisfied with their lives and experience lower risks for mental decline and they tend to have fewer cardiovascular problems.

Experts say the number of friends a person has is not as important as the quality of those friendships – and it is important to both nurture those relationships and to create new ones.

It is my opinion that the ways to nurture existing relationships and to meet new friends are the same. The mutual activities we enjoy with family and friends are the same activities which give us the opportunity to meet new friends.

A personal example is my husband and I enjoyed sailing with family and friends. Talking with other sailors after workshops and at the marina forged new friendships for both of us. A few other examples are golfing, book clubs or community theater.

Studies show how religious organizations, particularly Christian and Jewish, form strong, healthy relationships among participants.

If you are more of an introvert going out for coffee or dinner with a few special people may feel emotionally safer yet provide needed companionship. Small groups such as amateur radio and bridge clubs provide a safe environment for meeting more people.

Wherever you are in life, I encourage you to be proactive in nurturing your existing relationships and to create more. It is worth the time and effort for your health and for the health of those around you.

Email us with your comments as I personally reply to every email (please note the new email address): info@wellnesswithage.com.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, Crystal enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family.