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Celebrate Friendship Day:  Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Celebrate Friendship Day: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

The theme song from the hit sitcom, ‘Cheers’ got it right.  “…sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”  It is about being recognized and cared about.  Social engagement and connection is important in every stage of our lives — and is especially important as we grow older. The first Sunday in August celebrates Friendship Day.  Proclaimed in 1935 by the United States Congress, many countries have since embraced the tradition. Being with a good friend just makes us feel better.  As a matter of fact, research now suggests that people who remain connected and engaged, show a reduced physical and cognitive decline, and actually live longer. While positive family relationships can be enriching, affirming friendships (other than our spouse and immediate children) tend to have an even greater bearing on our well-being. Yet maintaining long-term friendships becomes more difficult with time.  Retirement, family moves, and losses all contribute to a reduction of our social network.  Indeed, my husband and I recently lost 4 of our closest ‘inner circle’ friends and 2 valued colleagues within a short 20 month period. With a physical move added to the mix, we had the challenge of creating a new ‘social normal.’  Quantity versus Quality It is not just more engagement — it is about more quality engagement.  Minutes in the presence of someone who gets you, appreciates you, and even challenges you to be all that you can be, is more powerful than hours spent with someone who doesn’t see who you are.  And ultimately, the shared moments that sometimes need no words can...
Minister for Loneliness

Minister for Loneliness

We are social beings. We need to feel connected, to love and to be loved. But what happens when we don’t feel connected, valued or understood? We feel lonely. It is probably one of the most universal experiences and can range from episodic feelings of discomfort to more profound feelings of depression, helplessness, and a fundamental lack of value. Some identify loneliness, especially for older persons, as one of the most significant public health issues of our time. In early 2018, the U.K. government announced the appointment of a ‘Minister for Loneliness’ in memory of British lawmaker Jo Cox. Just prior to her untimely death (she was murdered by a right-wing extremist in 2016), Jo Cox set up the cross-party commission to bring attention to the impact of loneliness, and to “turbo-charge” action and response to this disturbing problem in our communities. Whether this government announcement is perceived as a progressive, provocative, or political move, the gravity of the issue is undeniable. In Britain, 14% of the general population self report that they suffer from loneliness, and more than a third of older persons reported being overwhelmed by loneliness. Ami Rokach, clinical psychologist and instructor at York University Psychology Department in Toronto, Ontario, states that Canadian seniors up to age 65 say they are lonely 5%-10% of the time; however, those age 80 and older say they are lonely up to 80% of the time. The longer we live, the more vulnerable we become to loss of spouses, friends, mobility, and engagement. Shifting now to the USA, Professor John Cacioppo, the Director of the University of Chicago’s Center for...