“Social Connectivity” is science-language for a simple and obvious experience, that of connecting with others. We humans are, like it or not, fundamentally social creatures. Even introverts, such as myself, need to interact with others – just not at the pace or in the quantity enjoyed by extraverts.
In fact, social connectivity is so important to our health and well-being, that without it, we languish. We don’t do well at all. Research shows that lonely patients experience a four times greater risk for hospital readmission within a year of discharge. Not only that, but feeling lonely is associated with twice the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition, studies show that socially isolated seniors have a 64 percent increased risk of developing clinical dementia (of which Alzheimer’s is a specific type), as well as a 32 percent increased risk of stroke and 29 percent increased risk of coronary artery disease. Not to mention that social isolation also tends to result in more emergency room visits, hospitalizations and nursing home placements.
Not a pretty picture. All engendered by the lack of connecting with others, which considering how many of us inhabit the planet, surely can be overcome now that we are allowed, for the most part, to again meet and greet in person.
Take advantage of the rebound effect of the pandemic’s ending. Many of us, forced into solitude by virtue of Covid restrictions, have recognized just how important social connectivity is to our day-to-day well-being, and are now yearning to connect with others.
This is a prime time to find activities or hobbies done in concert with other people. The stigma or shame that can sometimes be associated with feeling lonely, or being alone, has – at least for now – vanished. We all have been alone and lonely this past year.
This does not mean it’s time to find a new spouse/partner, or re-connect on a deeper level with your current mate, although certainly both can be wonderful options. Social connectivity has to do with connecting beyond one’s mate or immediate family, to that “family” that exists outside your own.
There are umpteen opportunities to connect with others: book clubs, walking groups, art classes, music groups, gyms, tennis groups, dance classes, bridge clubs and more. Whatever your interests or inclinations, there is bound to be a group or class that caters to them. Plus, the added bonus of the Internet provides easy ways to find what might appeal to you.
Volunteering is another terrific way to connect. It could be volunteering at an animal shelter, tutoring young ones at a local school, or lending a hand at a nearby hospital or homeless shelter. In addition to connecting with others, volunteering has the added benefit of supporting your health and longevity.
Look for opportunities to connect that aren’t “one-shot deals.” For example, running a marathon is a fantastic adventure and certainly involves many others, but training for it can be an individual effort – unless you team up with a group of people happy to train together.
Don’t shy away from what may appear to be unusual or unique opportunities to connect. For example, Ann and Al Hill, (now 78 and 79, respectively) spent the last 30 years fostering some 100 teenage girls, an undertaking they embarked on once their own two daughters were out of the family nest.
Between the girls themselves, their schools, sports, doctor visits, hobbies and assorted young friends, I doubt there was ever a moment that Ann or Al felt socially isolated, much less lonely. Granted, few of us would be up to the task, yet to Ann and Al, providing hearth, home and guidance to young girls in need was the most natural thing to do for this caring, compassionate couple.
Be brave. Be willing to step out into our new post-Covid world and join with like-minded people in whatever endeavor pleases you. Not only will your health and longevity benefit, but you’ll be contributing to the well-being of others, even as you tend to your own.
What new hobbies or activities have you taken up now that the world is slowly getting back to normal? How are you seeing the world now that you’re beginning to go out again? What have you done to reconnect with others? Do you believe our appreciation to be with others is permanent or fleeting?