Feeling a sense of belonging – in your neighborhood, among a small group of friends or to a community organization – can greatly impact your health and happiness as you age. “I think people are craving that,” I said in an interview with Face Aging MN. “We all need purpose. I don’t care if you’re 20 or 90. We need purpose every day.” I created Vibrante Living because I believe shared living that encourages strong connections – among housemates and throughout the community – will inspire older adults to live vibrant, engaged lives.
I was so happy to talk with Face Aging MN about the importance of building community with our aging neighbors. Their campaign strives to raise awareness about issues facing our aging population in Minnesota. This is an issue close to my heart. Aging can be isolating if we don’t mindfully make choices that keep us connected. Strong social connections make us feel loved and valued. Some studies show that the impact of isolation and loneliness on our health may be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day! But where can we make these kinds of connections?
For many older adults, family is the first place they turn for quality, fulfilling relationships. But if that’s not possible – maybe your kids all live out of state and you live alone – finding strong connections elsewhere is important. One of my favorite suggestions is to volunteer for a cause that’s meaningful to you. This is a great way to meet like-minded people. Or join a social group such as a book or garden club. Retirement is the perfect time to take a cooking class or to learn Spanish. You can meet lifelong goals with the secondary benefit of connecting with others.
The very best way to make sure you’re feeling connected is by choosing a living situation that encourages strong relationships. We often think downsizing to an apartment or condo is the best choice as we age. Or maybe you’ve thought about moving into a large retirement complex. But you may still be lonely while surrounded by hundreds of other people. I believe sharing a home with a small group of like-minded women, such as at Vibrante, may be the best way to ensure a joyful, purpose-filled life.
Vibrante brings four women who might otherwise be living alone together to share a private home. Living among a small group often encourages more camaraderie. Vibrante is situated in the heart of a Minneapolis neighborhood, and as I told Face Aging MN, creating smaller, alternative housing options for seniors in their own community is a great way to help them keep lifelong connections strong.
If you are age 55 or older, let me know how you stay connected. Do you wish you had greater opportunities to interact with like-minded people?