Sunday, March 8, 2015

Life and puppies: Lonely? Get a pet and get involved

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.
  • I do live in the present most of the time.
  • I used to worry about loads of things, stress out etc.
  • Now, I have learned to switch off.
  • Learned worry is my thoughts on what may happen.
Dale Carnegie and Dr. Seuss

Most Boomers have a strong work ethic and derive a great sense of identity from their work. After all, many of us started working when we were 14 or 15 and have worked for 45 years to 50 years, so when work ends; there is often a huge void in our lives. This leaves many of us looking for ways to avoid loneliness when we retire.

Retirement can be a challenging time of life, especially in our modern era where many people live far away from their families and where more boomers are living alone. Many of us tend to struggle with finding new friends once we “retire” and leave a workplace that may have nurtured them for years. Without the routine of work, going to lunch with colleagues, and the other social structures related to their careers, many of us find that some of their most comfortable, familiar relationships have ended.

The good news is that we do not have to accept feeling loneliness in retirement! Instead, there are many ways that we can re-imagine and reinvent our lives to get what we want out of our relationships and make a difference in the lives of others.

Connect with People
Make an effort! Research shows that social connection is the number one health factor when it comes to reducing the risk of dementia and improving our overall health and well-being. Use online tools like to find clubs and groups that share your social interests, or take an evening class. Many colleges, universities, and public school districts offer continuing education classes or allow people to audit classes – you can always keep learning and keep connecting with new people, even if your working days are done.

Find a Purpose in Life
What do you stand for? Research shows that having a sense of purpose (having a sense of direction and setting big goals for what you want to do) adds years to your life expectancy. Just because you are retired does not mean you’re “finished.” still have many dreams to pursue, contributions to offer and gifts to share!

Spend some time journaling and thinking about what you want to do with the next stage of your life. Perhaps meet with a counselor or life coach who can help you visualize, verbalize, and stride toward your new sense of life purpose. What do you want the next part of your life to be about? Do you want to travel, write, create, teach, start a business, spend more time with grand kids, volunteer, or just have more fun? Whatever it is, clarify your purpose and pursue it with passion.
Reinvent Yourself – Don’t Fear Change
If there is one thing that women over 60 have learned from our careers and our lives so far, it’s that change is a constant. It is never too late to start over and present a fresh vision of yourself to the world.

Give Back – Volunteer

Loneliness in retirement often stems from a sense of detachment from the world and a resulting lack of purpose, which then leads to shutting oneself away. Lonely people often make the mistake of thinking that no one wants to hear from them, that everyone else is “too busy” and that they are better off just staying shut in by themselves. In this way, loneliness can become a self-compounding problem that gets worse over time.

One way to avoid loneliness is to share your gifts with other people. Whether you want to volunteer at your church or at a favorite charitable organization, there are many ways to help yourself stay energized by being generous to others. You can even volunteer without leaving home! For example, there is an excellent new project in Brazil that pairs Brazilian kids who want to learn English with English-speaking retirees in America who do a “Speaking Exchange” via video web chats. The Brazilian kids get to practice their English and the older Americans get to make new friends and serve as tutors and mentors.

This is another wonderful example of how technology – which is often blamed for making people lonelier – can be used to bring people together.

Consider Shared Housing
For many women over 60 living alone is something they like, but some people wouldn’t mind having roommates to share expenses and offer some daily companionship. As more of us are looking ahead to their retirement years, there is a growing demand for innovative types of shared housing and communal living, and there are many groups now being set up to help older people find shared accommodation.

Perhaps the future of retirement living will be less like a “retirement home” and more like a group of college roommates who share a home and help each other in a spirit of friendship

Consider a Pet
According to a new US study, previous studies that attempt to see if people with pets live a happier, healthier, and longer life has provided conflicting results.

Howard Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, says studies conducted in the past to determine whether having a pet improves, health and longevity have “produced a mishmash of conflicting results.” He wrote in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, “While pets are undoubtedly good for some people, there is presently insufficient evidence to support the contention that pet owners are healthier or happier or that they live longer…While some researchers have reported that positive effects accrue from interacting with animals, others have found that the health and happiness of pet owners is no better, and in some cases worse, than that of non-pet owners.”

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