Loneliness, as we age

Almost everyone experiences loneliness sometimes. However, as we age and lose people close to us or move to unfamiliar surroundings, loneliness can become prevalent. The Wall Street Journal writer, Elizabeth Bernstein reports a new study by the research team, John and Stephanie Cacioppo at the University of Chicago. Their research shows that our brains operate differently when we our lonely. The electrical activity in the brain of a lonely person is fast and more extreme; this creates an aura of guarding against social threat. The person goes into a mode of self-preservation. Loneliness is not the same as being alone. We can be happy alone but not when we feel lonely. I am absolutely sure that I have begged sometimes to be alone! At the same time I can identify with those who are lonely because of changing circumstances. I even know people who are lonely even when they have opportunities to extend themselves. In this case, there is a downward spiraling, and planned events are cancelled. Depression and loneliness often walk together.

So what to do? The Drs. Cacioppo suggest:   1. Extend yourself.   Go out even if you have to push yourself. 2. Develop a social plan with activities that you design and carry out. Invite someone and don’t back out. 3. Share good times with people who enjoy what you enjoy. 4. Be positive and expect the best from others. Remember if you are lonely you might be thinking others do not like you and this is likely not true. I might want to add another suggestion or two. If you are lonely, do something for someone else. There is a revised sense of a worthwhile activity. Don’t want to get dressed up to go out? Find an activity that allows you to just walk out in casual outfit like a workout outfit. That way people think that you are really “with it”. Just make sure you didn’t drip your last meal on it. Go out during the day when it is sunny and you feel better.

Want to know more? Write elizabeth.bernstein@wsj.com.


What I am learning from working with people in their 80s and 90s…

As I suspected, they are true to themselves. What you see is what you get. They have no need to employ subterfuge, and they no longer need to make an impression. Believe me this is refreshing coming from the world of work where one is always thinking about the best way to act and talk.

No matter the age, these people do not want to inconvenience anyone. They hate to ask people to do something for them. They even worry about whether I am enjoying myself when I take them places they want to go or do something they want to do. I have to always promise that if they ask me to go with them someplace or do something I hate, that I will let them know. Frankly this is just not a problem since this age group is likely not to ask me to skydive or zip line, and I simply never learned to play bridge. Their food tastes are not exotic so I don’t have to worry about faking a liking for sushi.

They do not worry about dying but also do not think about it either. Frankly there is an attitude that they will wake up tomorrow and live another day. However, they do want to not to live to the point that they are helpless and cannot take care of their own hygiene. (A common comment.) Frankly, I’m with them all the way on this.

Many more things I have to learn, and I will. I get a return far greater than I provide. I really have a good time. What is not to like about spending the afternoon at the movie and calling it at work? By the way, older people like a little R-rated. (I think they’ve seen it all.) What’s not to like about a tour of the arboretum and a lunch there? Even an hour at the local card shop allows me to browse for myself. Pinch me, this is work? And finally, talk about a little funny and totally unexpected witticism, I say: This is coming from the mouth of a lovely dignified 92 year old woman? Always, priceless.

So in signing off, remember to allow your older loved one to give you some good backtalk. If you simply cannot, call me.

Did you know???

The world is an exciting place and the discoveries and invention and creativity multiply now on a daily basis. Just this week, I caught up on New Horizons’ Pluto flyby. What about this whole endeavor should be interesting to senior adults? Well, we have a history of the discovery of Pluto as the ninth planet. We added it to our knowledge of the solar system. Most of us even learned a thing or two about the planet but alas not much. (I think many of us thought that it was named for the Disney character, but that’s not true.)

Pluto was always of interest to the scientists of the Pluto Underground! They were pushing for a Pluto mission way back in 1989. S think about how old you were in 1989 – 26 years ago. I’m thinking many seniors were relatively young then. NASA was concentrating on other areas so alas Pluto was put on the back burner—maybe because it is three billion miles away!

The journey to Pluto became real in the mid-2000s. I want you to know that it launched in 2006. (You were still a little young.) The spacecraft was tossed into space with its size similar to a grand piano and carrying only seven instruments.

So now I have seen the pictures. Over 25 years in the thinking of certain people and now we view closely dwarf planet Pluto and its moons. I was most intrigued to know that one moon, Nix is 26 X 22 miles, and we can view it.

Aren’t you glad to be living in this time and seeing the newest? Keep your mind going and stay in touch with new ideas. You are an “active-ager”; I think some people think older adults are about as productive as a teenager in summer – Prove them wrong.

How do People in Touch help the elderly?

The number of people reaching the age of 80 and up is increasing. This is not an especially startling fact but how many people are in this age group in North Texas. In 2012, there were about 700,000 in Texas. (http://www.aoa.acl.gov/AoA_Programs/HPW/Behavioral/docs2/Texas.pdf) If nine percent of the state’s population lives in Dallas County, one could roughly figure that 63,000 people 80 years old and above live right here in the area.

What’s interesting is that more and more of these elders are very capable of contributing by volunteering or even working. This became very clear, just this week, when I was taking a 90-year-old woman to visit her husband in rehab. I take her because she lives in a retirement center that does not offer van service, and she no longer drives. That’s the only reason. She can do most everything else! She is sharp minded, interested in everything, and is always looking for something to do. She is not likely to engage in just day-filling activities with other older people. If you saw her, you would not think she was in her 70’s. I constantly come into contact with people in their nineties just like her. What’s more, many want to do volunteer work but just no longer have a means of transportation.

So this brings me to think about what can these people do to help others? People in Touch reaches out to older adults through one of its telephone services. For a small fee we call older people and talk for about 30 minutes. Why can’t I just use an older person to make these call and earn a little extra cash? What else can you think about in your business where another experienced person can assist especially if transportation is not a problem? I can think about letter-writing, making calls, receptionist, welcome, and on and on. Why don’t we all try out some of this experienced talent?

More memories from a Man

Cherry notes attention and attachment/association are essential for memory. Some techniques ideas I use are information consolidation and repetition.

Attention is a major component of memory, and auditory input is not my best attribute. I might say that I am listening, but I am really not focused. Of course all of us have several things competing for our attention especially in conversations on the fly. Too often I just don’t focus. I’m now learning to consciously rein myself in and focus on what is being said.

Cherry notes attention and attachment/association are essential for remembering. There are three types of memory which help the brain function: mnemonics, information consolidation, and repetition. I use several things for remembering information from what is being said. I constantly use a calendar. These small reminders bring back most of the details of what I need to remember. I find that just repeating the important details in my mind immediately after hearing is very helpful. An idea I am trying to master is information consolidation.  This involves trying to attach what I am being told and must learn to something related that I already know. For instance, I remember the names of places I need to go by associating them with something of my past such as the name of something I already know like Sacramento with sacrament. I sometimes picture visually what people are saying to remember. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always make the difference for my ‘golf game’. Nevertheless, for other areas of listening and remembering, I’m doing better or at least trying!

Memories from a man’s point of view

Okay, so men are constantly accused by their family and friends of not hearing or remembering a lot of things throughout their lives. From my point of view, this has not been much of a problem because these same people are more than happy to remember for me. Enablers, one might say.

But now, I might be in need of taking things said to me and somehow get them to the place in my brain that stores information for more than five minutes.  So what can I do?  There are many suggestions for all ages of people, but here are a few which I picked up recently from Kendra Cherry, Psychology Expert.

There are any number of online exercises, techniques, and strategies to improve both short-term and long-term memory. However, you must devote some time regularly to such training to realize the benefits. Evidently, short-term memory will only last 20 to 30 seconds. So some fast transfer methods are needed! We must apply other means to keep up with what we want to remember. Keeping a sharp memory is a lifelong challenge and requires attention and information consolidation.

Article in Advocate

Did you see the wonderful article in the Advocate Magazine in May about People in Touch?  Be sure to read it – it is on page 38 and is titled “Retirees help others, have fun and get paid to do it, thanks to new Lakewood-area service”.  It is a wonderful article about our company, People in Touch.  Let us know if we can help you!