A few years ago, when a family member was thinking of moving to The Villages, the retirement community that describes itself as Disneyland for Seniors, we went down to check it out. After touring the property, we met with a realtor who said something that still resonates with me:
Villagers (the nickname for The Villages residents) live 8-10 years longer than the average senior citizen. This made sense to me. As people get older, their circle of friends tends to shrink. They may have lost spouses, partners, friends and family members. They are at a different phase of life than their younger families and friends, which can leave them feeling isolated and lonely. And we know that loneliness is unhealthy – studies have shown that loneliness can be deadlier than obesity.
Fast forward to today. Now that many of us are all experiencing some form of stay-at-home/shelter-in-place/quarantine/lockdown/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, we are also experiencing it for ourselves. For me, this distance makes me feel disconnected from people, from life. Take exercise. My gym is more than a place to work out. It’s a set date every week where I catch up with my friends. We discuss our lives, share our successes in class, laugh and workout. We hug and spot one another when learning new skills. Now that’s gone.
I miss sharing meals with my friends. I miss running a quick errand and chatting with people in the store. And don’t get me started on going to restaurants and bars with friends and family.
Let’s face it. Distanced becomes disconnected in a hurry.
And disconnection breeds distrust.
How many people move away as you passed them on a path or in a store? How many of us (be honest, nobody’s watching) look sideways at someone who dares cough or sneeze in public? How many of us do a double take when you see someone with a bandanna over their face? How many of us hear complaints from others about the lack of social distancing or worse, have reported it? Whether it’s a stranger, neighbor, friend, family member, the media or those in government, we’re starting to distrust others.
And this affects our health.
This is not how I want to live. I will not allow distance to end up in distrust. I will make every effort to stay connected. I will attend virtual classes and happy hours. Even if they’re not as good, at least they’re something. I will continue to patronize places deemed “essential” and engage in conversations with strangers. I will smile and say hello to everyone I encounter – my neighbors, people on the trail by my home, everyone. And in doing so, I will take care of myself.
Like taking care of myself physically it won’t always be easy – and I have railed against the loss of connection plenty. But it will be worth it. I’m worth it.
Are you connecting with others? Do you have someone to connect to? Post a message, or drop me a line – it’s important to stay connected!