FOR THE LOVE OF RELATIONSHIPS – Social connections are essential

All of us have a short shelf life. As we get older, our social lives diminish. Some of us lose our spouses or long-time friends to death. Research suggests that when this happens, many do not invest the time in getting to know others to keep up with the robust social connections they once had to keep themselves happy and healthy. Many studies show the correlation of social connections to health.  One recent study linked low socialization to the risk of developing dementia. Dementia is a global health challenge and social connections appear to lower the risk of suffering from this debilitating disease. 

People who are socially engaged exercise their cognitive skills such as memory and language. Spending time with others is good for mental well-being, correlates with being physically active and a high level of life satisfaction and happiness. 

Those that move into retirement homes might be surrounded by others, but the quality and nature of their relationships are superficial. Recently, the Center for Relationship Education team was retained to host a pilot 4-week workshop in a retirement community. The residents who attended were excited to learn new skills. One of the articulated expectations of the group was to learn how to go deeper in relationships. One resident said he wanted to learn, “What do you say after, ‘How are you?’

The workshop presenters were effective in getting the reluctant residents to participate in icebreakers, dancing, music and conversation starters. There was laughter, engagement, skills acquisition and connection. We could tell that this group of seniors was captivated by the activities, the discussions, and the lighthearted atmosphere that was created.

The following workshops from one week to the next were more populated by the residents than the week before. Word of mouth about the fun was increasing the class attendance from week to week. There was a buzz in the retirement facility. The Center for Relationship Education team was delighted to serve seniors in the development of new social supports and connections. 

Many of the goals around the work of the Center for Relationship Education is to increase health and well-being through thriving and satisfying relationship development. Additionally, the professional team desires to decrease loneliness and isolation among all age groups. The rate of teen suicide in Colorado increased by 58% in 3 years, making it the cause of 1 in 5 adolescent deaths. This is shocking!

Social isolation and loneliness are huge risk factors for depression and suicide ideation. The US Surgeon General just released a report entitled, Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, the US Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community. This report outlines that social connections are essential and that we need each other. We need to belong, to be affirmed, to be comforted, to be heard, encouraged, valued, known and respected. We need our lives to have meaning to ourselves and to others.  That is why all of us, no matter what age, need positive social connections.