Staying Connected

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There is no doubt. Maintaining your relationship with friends, especially over many years, is one of the most positive and helpful activities in which you can engage. In the past, almost any past, when friends or family moved to another country for work, for lifestyle, or an extended holiday, staying connected was a difficult task. When I was a kid my father would travel to Australia or the United States on business. Even talking to him in Australia required booking a three-minute call a week or 10 days beforehand, and then we were connected over a very crackly line. In the United States we had to wait till he came home.


Modern technology, however, is providing an increasing array of avenues to connect with people, no matter the time of day, and no matter where they live, excluding North Korea at the moment. The likes of Skype enable friends to see each other, to admire their wardrobe, their utterly adorable kids and grandkids, and ignore the extra lines and dropping of faces. Emails and social media offer further opportunities for engagement, exchange of photographs and videos, and allow as much engagement as with someone in the next street. Never has the trauma of distance from friends been so disrupted.

Don’t put off communications, don’t put off interacting with friends, as it is in the senior years many of us are going to depart unexpectedly, or may begin to lose capacity to recognise friends. Participating in these acts of friendship is like lifeblood.

Personal network of friends

As you get older, you will depend increasingly for joy, entertainment and support on your social network, and usually also from your family. Shared memories are a reviving activity, where the best things are celebrated and the bad things forgotten. Coddle the memories like a fine brandy as you ruminate on what might have been, or who to blame, often with righteous indignation, unleased from the prison of time. Isolation must be dispatched to the far corners of your territory, as mutual solutions are often found to current financial or physical disabilities. Keep talking, keep remembering, keep doing, and keep walking, oil your mindset (see Part Five, too, on attitudes and motivation).

Social networks are usually very informal, friends you’ve known for decades, people you’ve met through interests, or through work, or relatives, or folk who attend the same church. No formality about it, just people with whom you’re comfortable and can share things exciting, miserable, hopeful or forbidding. In communities renowned for their longevity, social networks appear very tight, as a critical item of the robust health-enhancing value of their environment.

Social media is an increasing vehicle for networking. It is not just for the young. Get educated here and find where and if this is for you.

Community groups (churches, clubs)

Without question, social relationships engendered by religious communities, and special interest or sports clubs, are invaluable, and they can have a profound positive impact for you during the later stage of your life, but even more so at times of crisis. Particularly for lonely seniors, even being a late entrant into such a community can be valuable. New members tend to be welcomed, and the collective spirit and support can be life changing. Seek out these opportunities if you are lonely. Groups like Age Concern can assist.

From Ageing Well: How to Navigate Life’s Journey in Your Later Years by Dr Doug Wilson, published with permission of Calico Publishing.

Buy it here


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