AARP Eye Center
If you’re feeling lonely these days, you’re not alone. Isolation is a big concern for older adults.
Nearly a quarter of adults age 65 and older are considered socially isolated — a statistic associated with a nearly 50 percent increased risk of dementia and other serious medical conditions, according to a 2020 report from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
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Technology is often touted as a way to bring people closer together, but Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook, texting and other high-tech options can sometimes be challenging to use. And in a social media era of heart and smiley-face emojis, online communication can feel less than authentic.
“Any social scientist will tell you we are wired for connection, but with technology, we [often] only have the illusion of connection,” says Bruce Wayne McLellan, 68, of Naples, New York, who hosts a podcast on the subject of kindness.
So what are some ways to connect with others that don’t involve our gadgets?
Clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly of Santa Rosa, California, offers these suggestions: If you buy a bag of apples and realize you can't eat all of them before they spoil, leave a couple on a neighbor's doorstep with a note that says, “I want to share these with you.” Do the same thing with a mason jar filled with flowers from your garden or with a recently finished book you want to lend (and suggest that they pass it on when they're finished).
“In doing so, we create — we crochet — connection,” says Manly, author of Aging Joyfully. “Anything we do becomes part of who we are. We need to look at doing things that give our lives purpose. People who have a purpose in life are far happier.”
Bond over food
Who doesn't like good food and good conversation? Start a dinner club by selecting a group of people you'd want around the table. Then gather monthly (or however often feels comfortable). If you're the host, decide on a menu theme and serve a main course. (Bonus points for experimenting with more obscure world cuisines.) Everyone else helps round out the meal with an appetizer, side dish or dessert.
If that feels overwhelming, invite someone for coffee, or pack some snacks or a picnic for an outdoor outing.