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Creating Community as You Age

Creating Community as You Age
By Kristina James
Published by Ruby

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We’re better together.

We see in nature how living things work together to sustain life. The root systems of trees provide nutrients and shelter to other living organisms. Birds use special calls to communicate danger to other birds; bees will cluster together to create warmth or fan their hive to make it cooler.

It’s no different for us: we need each other.

The current Coronavirus pandemic is making it more difficult than usual to build community and connect with loved ones. The need for human connection doesn’t just disappear in tough times, though. In fact, making an effort to engage with your community is more important now than ever.

Epidemiologist Bryan James of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago studies the ways that social activity impacts the aging. “When you use your brain and body the way it was intended—as it evolved—you age better,” he says, “We just aren’t meant to be disengaged from one another.” James’s studies have found that people who are more socially active are able to sustain independence longer and in more areas of life.

Thankfully, we live in a time that is full of options for maintaining a rich social life. Even while you’re confined to your home, there are still many ways to find and connect with like-minded people.

Where the people are.

Share Your Interests

You’ve already got interests. Maybe you’re a seasoned gardener, an old movie buff, or a wine aficionado. No matter your interests, there is most likely already an organized group of people who share them. Facebook has countless interest groups for everything from pets to cars to fine art. If you’re an avid reader, check out this list of online book clubs that you can join at any time. Once you delve into the world of interest groups, you’ll get more and more comfortable seeking out like-minded people who are bound to become your friends.

 

Get Outside

If you’re able to, leaving the house for a walk around the block can be just the ticket to feeling more human connection at this time. Take the necessary precautions—facemask, hand sanitizer, and a mind to keep a safe distance—and then get out there! Engage in neighborly small talk, even across a front lawn or stoop. It’s a small but effective step toward bridging gaps, and each conversation will lead to another. Nextdoor.com is a great resource for neighborhood conversations, helping neighbor connect with neighbor, even during times apart.

 

Stay Connected

If there’s one thing the world isn’t short on right now, it’s ways to stay connected. Social media is a titan force in our culture, sometimes to the extent that it can feel, well, overwhelming. Where do you begin? Which platform is right for you? A good place to start is where you already are and, by proxy, where the people who are in your life flock to. Ask your friends and family if they have a preferred video chatting app, and go from there.

It’s more important than ever to see your loved ones face to face, even if you can’t be in the same room. There are myriad ways of seeing your people virtually. With just a little direction, you can easily learn to use apps like Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype to connect with family and friends. When they’re not available for a call, Facebook is a great way to send messages and stay up to date in your loved ones’ lives.

 

Get Creative

Let’s think outside the box for a minute. Sometimes the best answer is the simplest one. For making a statement of friendship, you can always try to old fashioned way: snail mail. Sending and receiving letters is even more novel than it used to be, and it always feels good. Another unconventional idea? Live broadcast performances. Symphonies, such as the Seattle Symphony, are broadcasting performances live, as are countless others. Not only does music offer comfort and resilience in hard times, but the forums and comments sections in these performances are also a great place to talk with others about that shared affinity. Or how about games? Online games such as Words With Friends will get your brain going while you face off against real people.

 

Sharing Life Enhances Living

Just like bees, trees, and birds, we humans thrive when leaning on and supporting each other. Even in times of isolation—whether brought on by a global pandemic or personal health issues—don’t skimp on your social connections. Your health, independence, and well-being will be strengthened through the connections you make with others.

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