by Michael Groetsch
If you are over 60, you may have noticed that your life circles, the multiple and distinctive social groups in which you interact, are beginning to decline in numbers. More specifically, these groups include your family, close friends, soul mates, both past and present co-workers, and acquaintances that you regularly interact with in sports, hobbies, church, school, neighborhood groups, clubs, and other areas of personal interest. It is your life circles that keep you emotionally, spiritually, and physically engaged on a daily basis. It is your life circles that give you purpose. It is your social groups that give you a sense of oneness. It is why you get up in the morning and what you dwell on when you lay to rest in the evening.
While your diverse social circles may not interact with one another on a regular basis, they often come together on special occasions such as weddings, Christmas, New Years and even funerals. It is at those moments in time when your multiple circles become a single large circle and fulfills your need for oneness inherent to all human beings. In essence, your diverse life circles are paramount to your sense of identity, being loved, self-worth, and self-esteem.
As you age however, your life circles may become sparse and your sense of oneness may begin to dissipate. If not careful, you may even become somewhat reclusive. As a result, you are subject to loneliness and can unnoticeably and gradually slip into bouts of depression. This is why it is so very important to recognize that while the gradual and subtle decline in your social contacts may be somewhat predictable and unavoidable as you age, there are also proactive measures that you can take to maintain and even increase your life circles as well. Why I am aware that some of you may no longer drive or have medical problems that restrict certain activities, if you are diligent enough, you may find new opportunities that replace some of the old circles that you have lost.
In your efforts to be proactive in maintaining your present life circles and possibly even creating new ones, please consider the following and you may quickly discover that your tomorrow will be happier then your today.
- Host Baby Boomer Fridays: Consider inviting your closest age-equivalent friends and soul mates to your home once a month to enjoy wine and cheese while sharing old music, movies and items relevant to your earlier years. For example, you could watch the movie “The Graduate” and later play a CD by Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, James Taylor or other 70s folk singers so pertinent to your life at that moment in time. It is probable that Baby Boomer Fridays will become the highlight of your month and will help in keeping one of your most important life circles intact.
- Volunteer Work: Consider doing volunteer work that will not only provide you with a sense of self-esteem, self-worth and purpose, it will also allow you to create a new life circle that replaces (particularly at your former workplace) one that you may have already lost. There are an endless number of volunteer opportunities available at animal shelters, churches, mentoring agencies, homeless shelters, hospitals, etc. It is not by chance, but by design, that as you enter your local hospital, you find yourself being greeted by so many smiling-aging volunteers sitting behind information desks.
- Join a Walking Group: Enroll in your local YMCA, YWCA or fitness center. Join your neighbors for daily walks. These groups are not only a great form of exercise, they enable you to make new friendships.
- Open or Maintain a Facebook Account: Facebook is an excellent way to keep connected to family and friends that you may rarely see. It also allows you to share photos, stories and have on-line chats with those who are important to you.
- Attend Special Social Celebrations: To stay connected with many of your closest life circles, always try to attend Christmas and New Year Eve parties, birthday parties, weddings and even funerals. These are the events that pull together some of your most intimate friends and family members.
- Join a Book Study Group: Attending a weekly/ monthly book group is not only an enjoyable social event in which you will meet people with common interests, they are also intellectually stimulating.
- Join a Garden Club: Working in your garden allows you to experience the outdoors and connect with the oneness of nature. Joining a garden club also enables you to create a social group with people who have similar interests.
- Join a Card Group: There are so many versions of playing cards such as poker, gin rummy, bridge and so on that if you do a little research, you will probably find a group that may interest you. Card socials are not only a way to address your competitive nature, it is a great way to keep in touch with old friends and make new ones.
- Attend/Join a Church: Irrespective of religious beliefs, maintain a spiritual balance by attending weekly church services. As you age, while you may quickly address your physical and medical concerns, you may neglect addressing your soul.
- Join Your Neighborhood Civic Association: Civic associations are a great way to maintain and improve the community in which you live. They are also a wonderful way to meet and socialize with neighbors that you did not previously know. Most civic associations also host special events and parties that are enjoyable.
- Join You Alumni Association: Keep in touch and reconnect with your former classmates by becoming active with your former school(s) alumni association. Most schools host reunions in which you can rekindle old friendships.
- Join an Arts and Crafts Group: Most of us have a creative nature that needs to be fulfilled. Like book clubs, an art and craft group will allow you to associate and build friendships with others who share common interests.
- Adopt a Rescue Animal: Consider adopting a shelter dog or cat. If you are still physically active, a dog will motivate you to walk each day and see things that you may have almost forgotten. They also provide you with emotional support and unconditional love that evolves into intense bonds. Sometimes when I see an older person adopt a rescue animal at the shelter where I volunteer, the thought of who rescued who always comes to mind.
- Get a Weekly or Monthly Massage: Going to a wellness center or having a masseuse or a masseur come to your home for a relaxing message is the perfect way to reduce stress. Dim the lights, shut your eyes, and listen to soft music while allowing yourself to momentarily escape into another state of consciousness.
- Hire an Escort to Transport You to Important Functions: If you are no longer able to drive and cannot rely on family members or friends to transport you to important events or appointments, consider contracting a cab company or a private individual for such assistance. The fact that you may no longer have car expenses may allow you to divert some of your savings to a private transport contractor.