by Joan Richman Ente, L.C.S.W., C.-A.S.W.C.M.
Tens of millions of baby boomers are steaming full-speed ahead toward the newest frontier: longevity. We live in tumultuous, fast moving times, in a world where people are living longer than ever before. A 2012 report from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed a 66% increase in the number of people living past age 100. But does a long life ensure a good life? What can we do to have the best of both worlds?
Socialization and a balanced, outer-directed life are the cornerstones of healthy aging. In 2007, research by Dr. Steven Cole of UCLA found that people with strong social connections demonstrate better immunity against disease than their isolated counterparts. Other studies have shown that individuals who are socially active may be less likely to develop cognitive impairment* and that an active social life slows memory loss**.
Many aging adults are not as active as they would like to be. They may feel isolated and cut off from the community. For some, declining health and lack of transportation are obstacles to socializing. Those who have lost friends may not want to invest the time in building new relationships. All too easily, quiet and inactivity can become the daily norm. If isolation and deep loneliness become established routine, life can begin to lose meaning and purpose.
As care managers in the community, we often help older adults and families consider solutions to the problem of isolation:
- Exercise. Walk indoors at your local mall or the hallways in your building, find an outdoor walking group through your local senior center, dance your way through a Zumba Gold class (curriculumspecifically designed for aging limbs) or try one of CJE’s “Sit and Get Fit” classes. Specialty exercise programs for Parkinson’s disease and other neuro-motor conditions are offered free of charge at Lieberman Center in Skokie and Weinberg Community in Deerfield.
- Volunteer. Put your lifetime’s worth of skills, talent and experience to work for others through volunteering and civic engagement, and you’ll reap unexpected rewards and fulfillment in the process. CJE has a wealth of volunteer opportunities, from delivering meals to being a “friendly visitor” at one of our communities.
- Use your talents. Whether newly-discovered or from the past, stay engaged creatively. Sing in a senior chorus, become a docent at a local museum or art gallery, or take part in the community theater as an usher or on stage as an actor. Or write it out. Tell your story and preserve living history for family members who will follow in your footsteps.
- Keep learning. Stay engaged through lectures, discussion groups, literary readings, computer classes and more. There are many adult education programs at little to no cost, and closer to home than one might imagine. You can even connect the virtual way! CJE’s Virtual Senior Center (VSC) can provide a wealth of online, interactive programming and discussion groups. Classes on history, art, literature, Jewish life, health and wellness, and cooking are readily available during the week for participants from all over the country. Use the VSC to connect with friends and family via email or Skype.
Our recipe for longevity and quality of life is simple: socialize and exercise! Maintain a sense of purpose and connection to make your long life a life worth living.
*American Academy of Neurology, 2009
**Harvard School of Public Health, 2008
|The Geriatric Care Managers of Your Eldercare Consultants tap into CJE’s unique continuum of care to advise older adults and families in times of transition. They can plan for maximum independence and quality of life; evaluate safety and risk factors; assist in hiring and managing caregivers; and much more. To find out more, visit www.YourEldercareConsultants.com(link is external) or call 773.508.1015.|