You’ve known it’s true. Even long before you were After Fifty. Being lonely is a difficult state to be in. But existing in a state of loneliness is more than just “difficult.” We’re now learning that being lonely is a predictor of functional decline and premature death. Says who? The American Medical Association. (Here’s the recent article in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death.) The study looked at men and women ages 60+ over a period of 6 years. “Lonely” subjects admit to feeling left out, isolated, and lacking companionship. And the more lonely they are, the more likely they are to experience difficulty with activities of daily living – ADLs, like dressing, bathing, eating; decline in mobility; and more. AND, they experience 45% increased risk of death.
So, the good doctors at the AMA, in their comment to accompany the article, wrote something that we at AFL have known all along: that is, social support is necessary at ALL stages of life!
Do we believe this? Absolutely! And the website, After Fifty Living, is a dynamic extension of this belief. Building a vibrant, responsive, and supportive After Fifty community is essential to our mission. Why? Because I believe that living a fulfilled life within a community, one in which you are respected as you respect others, is not only a noble desire, it is an essential mandate for individual and global health.
Social support, and a social community within which you receive that support, is the foundation of our lives. If you construct a building on sand, it will crumble with the first gust of wind. The same is true of our lives. If you don’t have a strong “foundation” – then the winds of life will surely cause you to crash.
Yes, it’s good to know that the American Medical Association recognizes the essential role of social support and community in our lives. And becoming “After Fifty” does not diminish the need. I suspect that as we move through this stage in our lives, we may find it more difficult to maintain our social connections. But don’t let that happen! Cherish your old friends, and make new ones, too. Join a club, participate in an online forum, volunteer at a hospital. Those social connections you’re developing and cultivating – well, they’re as essential to your health as the blood that flows through your veins.