Five ways to make next year’s “Cheer Up the Lonely Day” obsolete

We live in a world of almost constant communication, yet we face an epidemic of loneliness. This dichotomy of an ever-increasing means of connection and decreasing feeling of community has led to multi-generational isolation. Last year, the American Medical Association identified loneliness as a public health issue. In a 2023 Gallup poll, 24 percent of young adults report feeling lonely and in a similar poll by the Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy one in three adults aged 50–80 (34%) reported feeling isolated from others. Eleanor Rigby, the titular character in Paul McCartney and John Lenon’s classic 1966 tune, would have plenty of company today. She’d also have plenty of concerns. A study released this week from the Harvard School of Public Health noted that adults older than 50 years who report experiencing persistently high levels of loneliness have a 56% increased risk for stroke. Previous studies have linked loneliness to other health risks including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression and memory issues. Fortunately, we have plenty of ways to combat loneliness. Some of them are as simple as a phone call, text or letter. July 11 is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day and we can think of several ways to celebrate it. Organize a simple neighborhood potluck. Reach out to an old friend. Pop a couple of “I’m thinking of You” cards into the mail. Plan an outing for one of your regular group chats. Invite someone you know to volunteer with you at a local charity. One small step out of your comfort zone can lead to giant leaps away from loneliness. Invite someone to take a class with you, see a show, watch a ballgame or take a walk. Most people have really interesting stories to tell if you treat yourself to a conversation with them. Let’s work hard on this year’s “Cheer up the Lonely Day” so we can render next year’s obsolete.

Finding a labor of love

In some ways, a healthy retirement relies on the proper choice of preposition. You want to retire to something – a passion or hobby – rather than from something. Want to retire so you can spend more time with your grandchildren? Great. Can’t wait to retire so you can stop working at a job you find uninspiring? Okay, but then what? Rising life expectancies and opportunities for good health have produced a generation of octogenarians who crave activities and may need some additional resources to fund them. That’s why we often recommend that the best retirements sometimes include work. We certainly condone leaving a job you no longer enjoy if you have the financial resources to do so, but, if you have no other plans, consider part-time work in a related field. Work as a consultant, tutor, freelance writer, receptionist or cashier. The wages you earn will help you avoid dipping into your retirement funds, which will give them a better opportunity to grow. Even if you’re very confident you have set yourself up financially for a successful retirement, you still might crave the opportunity to feel useful. In that case, volunteer as a coach, mentor, docent or usher. The idea is to stay active and productive. Give yourself a reason to leave your house, challenge your brain to keep it sharp and allow yourself opportunities for social connections. If you love your job and enjoy your co-workers don’t retire just because your birthdate says you can. Social Security calculates your monthly payment based on your 35 highest wage earning years. Most people earn much higher wages in their later years of employment than they did in their early years. So, the more years you work earning the higher wages, the more lower-wage years you will replace. This will boost your monthly Social Security payment (up to the highest Social Security benefit amount you can receive , which is $2,788… | Read More »

Seven steps to preserving your independence

How we age depends on so much more than genetics. The good news is that, even though it isn’t always easy, we do have control over most of the factors shaping our golden years. Last year, Northwestern University released a study of “super agers”, people over 80-years old who have maintained excellent cognitive function. The study noted a clear link between brain health and positive relationships. Want to maintain your independence? Call a friend to chat! In addition to cultivating and maintaining social connections, we’ve identified six other key factors that influence how we age and you have some control over them all. You just have to lean in. Physical strength. You don’t have to go to the gym every day, but you do need to remain active. Take a walk, ride a bike, go for a swim, play a little pickle ball, practice yoga. Taking fitness and just plain activity seriously enough to maintain a basic amount of body strength is also very important for fall prevention. Most doctors recommend 30 minutes a day. Home modifications. As physical needs change, people need to adapt their environment to accommodate those changes. Install handrails, clear the floor of any throw rugs, move furniture to ensure a clear path through it. Arrange your cabinets to make things you use every day readily accessible. Add floor mats and guard rails to your tub, check the lighting in your bedroom to make sure you can see at night. You don’t necessarily have to cook your own meals, but you do have to make sure you are consuming nutritious food. Home delivery services make that very easy. Pay attention to what you put in your mouth and make sure you keep healthy snacks in stock. Stock up on freezer containers so you can split one large meal into several smaller and freeze them for later use. Of course, having a driver’s license makes transportation much… | Read More »