05 Dec Are You Socially Engaged?
We humans are social beings. Even the introverts among us benefit from regular contact with people we know. And therein lies the key to aging well – socially engaging with people we know. On top of that, we need to be meaningfully and purposefully occupied as part of the schedule of our days, weeks, and months.
The good news is that these two needs can work well together – engaging socially in meaningful and purposeful occupation on a regular basis. They can also operate separately, as Samuel Johnson pointed out.
“If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary, be not idle.”
We can feel socially engaged even when doing something on our own if we feel that we are contributing to others in some way – knitting mittens for someone, writing a report to effect societal change, building a bookcase for a friend. Our critically important task to age well is to develop our social networks. Let’s look at some examples.
If you are not very mobile and have trouble getting out and about, you might focus on ways to bring people to you, such as hosting a monthly pot luck or reading group, or inviting people over to watch sports or a movie once a week.
If you feel shy about doing this, ask one or two people you know and encourage them to each bring a friend. I met a woman once who complained that nobody phoned her; she was amazed at how good she felt when she became someone who phoned others.
You may prefer more solitary social occupations, such as writing letters to friends, developing a cookbook of favourite recipes to share with your family, or doing some task on your own for a group you belong to. There’s also nothing wrong with asking people you see regularly to drive you places, provided you’ve taken the trouble to show an interest in them and get to know them a little.
If you’re more mobile and have more energy, use this as an opportunity to get around in your community, meet people, and build your social support networks, so that you have them in place when it’s more challenging to get out and about.
What is most helpful is seeing the same people on a regular basis. In other words, it’s better to go to a monthly meeting of the same group of people than to go once a month to different activities where there are people you don’t know. You could make a round of different activities more social by inviting someone you know to go with you. Even if you don’t know someone very well, extending an invitation could be an opportunity to get to know them better.
Loneliness in old age works against our health and well-being, and it’s a lot more fun and satisfying to be socially engaged doing things that are purposeful and meaningful to us.
As social beings we need other people, and now is as good a time as any to look outside ourselves, reach out to other people, and share our interests by doing things with and for others.
Also see 7 Ways to Meet Your Neighbours
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