Friendship can save your life

| 29 Aug 2016 | 06:52

Graying New York


Last week I attended an ice cream social at DOROT, a social services organization headquartered on the Upper West Side. My aim was maybe to meet some new people and possibly join one of the organization’s groups.

No, it’s not that I don’t have friends. But I know that friendship, new and old, is vital for senior citizens. Indeed it’s been shown that loneliness is linked to reduced life-span and health issues. Most of us have friends who are specific to our life stage. Friends from our youth (if we’re lucky), friends from college, from our children’s childhoods, and friends we made as adults. But as we get older, friends get sick, move or die. So it’s important to keep on trying to meet new people and make fresh connections.

We have friends that we feel close to and friends with whom we do things of mutual interest. Recent research found that older people with a large network of friends outlived those with fewer friends by more than 20 percent. Senior Planet asked some experts to share tips for making new friends later in life. They recommended getting involved in activities you enjoy and staying open to making new friends as you participate.

You may not feel close to every new person you meet, but all you need is one or two really close friends — and others with whom to stay active and involved in the world. Loneliness is a health risk. The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop health problems as they aged. It’s an effort to keep on meeting new people, staying open to new friendships, being vulnerable to rejection, but it’s worth it.

It’s so easy to get stuck, to stay at home and to become depressed and ill. Some studies show that friendships are linked to good health in the elderly even more than family ties. All of this is the reason I went to the DOROT social and also a Lunch in the Neighborhood through BAiP (Bloomingdale Aging in Place), a neighborhood naturally occuring retirement community, or NORC. Both events were pleasant, fun ways to meet new people and perhaps create friendships.

The JCC on 76th and Amsterdam has many excellent programs for seniors, including discussion groups, support groups, bereavement groups and caregiver support groups. It also continues to run a “Walking on Eggshells” group for parents of estranged adult children, which is a more pervasive problem than most people know. The JCC has excellent exercise programs and a large indoor pool. For those who don’t know the JCC, e-mail or call 646-505-5716. You can also simply walk in and pick up a catalogue.

The UJA-Federation of New York Resource Line supplies information and referrals to the health and human service agencies in the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies network. They provide assistance to older adults and caregivers; financial and employment services; mental health services; end of life care and other programs.

Here’s to friendship and new beginnings.

But even with flourishing friendships, life has its annoyances. Here’s one of mine: Amazon, which has a real nerve. The lesson here is never to let a monopoly get too full of itself. Instead, create more competition.

Lately, almost everything of interest on Amazon has become Prime, which means that you have to pay extra each year to be a Prime member. Without that, you are shut out of most new books, as well as many items on their site. Prime really used to be optional (and it still is ... sort of). It used to mean that orders would be shipped more quickly, but you could still order everything from the site. Now, no way. If you’re not a Prime member, you’re not even able to order most of the good stuff.

As a senior citizen on a budget, I don’t appreciate being bulldozed into this new policy. If people would protest, maybe they’d open eyes to the unfairness of this. But here’s the kicker. I joined Prime. I gave in to reality. I order a lot of books and other things from Amazon. What am I supposed to do, cut off my nose to spite my face? I’m angry at myself for giving in, but I stretched my budget and joined. Phooey!