Connecting to neighbors, family members, and friends can be the inspiration that helps us feel alive and relevant. When we are isolated, we may focus on negative thoughts that lead us to a darker place. A meaningful conversation can redirect our negative thoughts and keep us from heading to a darker place or challenge us to think differently, and this can be the spark or connection that we need.
Being part of a community and better yet, multiple communities, is important at every age. Parents and children enjoy the structure of experiences through school and recreational activities. Parents of young children often develop friendships by socializing with other parents. Coworkers often provide a sense of belonging and connection. As individuals enter retirement, there can be a lack of routine and socialization from the workplace may no longer exist.
Creating structure through community engagement can become increasingly difficult for older adults without a local family or who are experiencing the loss of friends. It takes courage to mobilize oneself to be a joiner especially if the individual never felt the need to do this earlier on in their life. Decades of research and a recent advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General emphasize the critical role that social connection plays in helping individuals and communities to be healthy, safe, and resilient.
In the last two months, JFS has received calls from community members who are experiencing feelings of fear and lack of control after observing so much violence on our screens. It’s important, now more than ever, to have conversations that come from a place of kindness and concern. Reaching out to those across the globe, as well as the local community, can be a way of demonstrating that you care about what others are going through and that they are not alone. Most importantly, reaching out means that you are not alone.
Building connections is a lifeline to sustainability. As winter approaches and it becomes colder, there may be more resistance to getting out of the house or going to activities. Look for that sunny spot on a cold day. Set a goal that you will have at least two interactions per day. Volunteer to call someone who is lonely, which will strengthen you and decrease your sense of isolation. In the words of American author and podcast host, Brené Brown, “We are hard-wired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it, there is suffering.”
JFS is in a unique position to provide support through counseling and older adult services. The JFS staff is here to get to know you and connect you to programming and resources that will enhance your quality of life.
Debbie Zoller, MSW, LCSW, JFSLV Executive Director