SENIORS’ HEALTH: Worth it to stay social, secure and smiling

Connections are important to maintaining health, writes Louise Tremblay

The Seniors Health Network each month poses a question to health-care professionals. This month, the following hypothetical question was posed to Louise Tremblay, BC Association of Community Response Networks:

“Everyone is talking about ‘social isolation’ and connectedness and I’m not sure what it all means and why it’s important for seniors.

Why should we develop meaningful connections?”

The idea that humans are social beings may be hackneyed, but it still has validity. We rely on social systems, either externally organized or personally designed, to live a good life which by one definition means to experience health, wealth, security, socialization, personal growth and service.

From childhood to adulthood, we navigate various phases of our existence. We grow up within a family unit; we go away to university and live on campus with other students; we get jobs and interact with co-workers and we find love and start families of our own – although not necessarily in that order.

All the while, we are mostly surrounded by people and have many opportunities for social connections, some of them very deep.

Then, we get older and life changes.

For many of us, it’s a time to enjoy a second youth, explore the world or dote on our expanding families. For others, it’s a juncture that offers a different reality orchestrated by a string of unfortunate circumstances such as declining health, scarce financial resources and the loss of a loving partner.

Regardless of our situation, life can take twists and turns where we suddenly find ourselves socially disconnected and isolated.

While we may grow used to living alone and enjoy our own company, there are many reasons to create and maintain meaningful connections.

Meaningful connections may be defined differently by different people depending on temperament and personal needs.

However, meaningful connections generally entail supportive, positive, respectful, honest, interdependent and compassionate relationships with other people.

These connections are healthy, reciprocal and rewarding. They contribute to our holistic wellbeing and sense of worth, positively impacting all aspects of our existence.

On the other hand, meaningful connections should not induce guilt, indebtedness, loss of control, feelings of inadequacy, dependence or lack of autonomy as these sentiments, if sustained, are detrimental to a good life.

In this case, it would be beneficial to redirect these types of relationships in the way of good communications or to even abandon them in the face of continued disharmony.

The extent of social connection we need depends on each individual. Some people need a lot of social interaction, while others are happy to stay home alone and read a book.

The key is to ensure that we do not become isolated because social isolation can contribute to deteriorating physical and mental health and open the door for abuse.

It is well-documented that the more isolated we are, the more susceptible we are to become the target of abuse, and the more abuse we sustain the more isolated we become.

This may seem like an oxymoron because, for abuse to prevail, an isolated person needs to enter into a relationship with the abuser. But for abusive personalities such as fraudsters, isolation is the ultimate condition to achieve their desired outcome and they will find opportunities to connect with the isolated person.

By staying connected to our social networks, we can create circumstances where we can confide in and tell our story to people we trust. In sharing this way, we can get help for ourselves as well as helping others.

Meaningful connections can be achieved through many types of linkages including family ties, close friendships, spiritual affiliations and professional supports.

Given that people in our lives tend to come and go, and that we cannot realistically expect one person to fulfill all of our human needs, it’s important to keep our social networks emergent and thriving by continually reaching out to existing relationships and creating new ones.

We don’t have to be social butterflies to develop meaningful connections. All we have to do is to stay connected by going for a walk, saying hi to people, visiting the library, taking classes, volunteering or going for coffee.

Another way to stay connected is to keep track of what’s going on in the community by checking out the announcements in the newspaper and making a point to attend some of the events.

For people with mobility issues, it may be more difficult, but they could connect by telephone, converse by email, safely participate in social media, invite friends and family over for a visit or try to get out whenever possible.

Breaking isolation and developing meaningful relationships contribute to improved quality of life through better health, disease prevention and longer life expectancy.

It takes work, but it is well worth it.

So, go out there and smile at someone.

The South Surrey White Rock Seniors Health Network is a coalition of seniors service providers working under the auspices of the Mayor of White Rock’s office. For information on community resources, visit sswr.fetchbc.ca.

If you have a question for publication, please email seniorshealthnetworksswr@gmail.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Police’s role in Barnston Island still needs ‘to be looked at’

Surrey RCMP polices unincorporated island a short ferry ride across Parson’s Channel

Surrey looking into reducing residential speed limits

Surrey city council on Feb. 24 approved five ‘key pillars’ of a Surrey Transportation Plan

Fate of five-district policing model in Surrey rests with new police board

Whalley/City Centre, Guildford/Fleetwood, Newton, Cloverdale, and South Surrey districts formed under McCallum’s watch in 1998

Notorious South Surrey fugitive captured in California to face murder trial in Canada

Brandon Nathan Teixeira submitted to extradition during court proceedings Thursday in Sacramento

‘We have to triage’: Surrey teachers stage ‘walk-in’ to support public education

Teachers raising awareness after more than one year at the bargaining table

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

B.C. mother, daughter return home after coronavirus quarantine in Asia

Jensine Morabito and her daughter were on Holland America’s Westerdam but did not catch the virus

Leap Year means we get an extra day in February, so how are you spending it?

People online have a number of suggestions and plans on how they will be spending Saturday

Greta sticker that drew outrage in Alberta not child pornography: RCMP

X-Site Energy Services has denied having anything to do with the stickers

Bald eagle hit by train in northern B.C. has a chance of survival

The raptor has been taken to OWL in the Lower Mainland for recovery

Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto sign a historic agreement

Co-operation crucial to stem dropping Nechako Reservoir level

Hundreds of B.C. firefighters ‘climb the wall’ for BC Lung Association

The charity fundraiser saw participants climbing up 48 storeys

Stories of sexual assault at B.C. tree planting camps ‘shocking but not surprising:’ advocate

Contractors’ association is working with trainers to create respectful culture

Most Read

l -->