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Help Others Overcome the Winter Blues

Reach out to those older adults who don't get out much this time of year

Do you know anyone in your community who lives alone and might welcome a new connection?

Particularly now with potentially icy roads and colder temperatures, older adults may tend to stay at home and not venture outside. While this can certainly be a safe choice, one of the biggest challenges they may face is feeling isolated and lonely.

A senior woman sits at home by the fire

Even light socializing can help alleviate loneliness in older adults who stay home for much of the winter. — Photo by Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images

Hopefully all of us are lucky enough to have someone to share time with in 2012. Perhaps this year we can turn some of our attention to those in our community who may not have that opportunity and "share the love" with them too. Many of us know people who have lost their spouses, partners or best friends and for some, as we get older, making new friends can be a challenge.

A lot of community organizations, such as Area Agencies on Aging, have what are called "friendly visitor" programs in which neighbors and friends are encouraged to spend a little time with older adults who live alone. It can be a very rewarding experience. Even light socializing, such as a phone call or a brief in-home conversation, can help alleviate depression and loneliness. Sometimes the greatest gift of all can simply be the gift of spending time.

Older people benefit in many ways from relationships they form with new friends. A strong social support network can reduce stress, foster independence and increase feelings of self-worth. All of that can add up to a longer — and happier — life.

More: AARP Foundation, reconnecting those in isolation. >>

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