“Forty percent of people moving into our retirement community come from out of state.” That number from marketing staff at University House Issaquah isn’t surprising. Their community is participating in a nationwide trend.
We Boomers want our aging parents to be close to us. Even though the move is the “right thing” and we are able to visit more often, our parent can still experience loneliness and social isolation
Take Doris who describes herself this way: “I was a lost soul.” An 80-something woman, Doris had moved into a new retirement community a few months before. She was now close to her daughter but far from friends and familiar things. Doris was afraid to leave her apartment. She couldn’t find her first friend.
Deborah Skovron, CSA, met Doris while doing research on loneliness and isolation. She presented her findings in “Keeping It Human: Strategies to Enhance a Sense of Purpose, Meaning and Connection for an Engaged Life.”
Why is the longing for connection so important? Skovron says, “Loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of cognitive decline and depression. Lonely people are twice as likely to get Alzheimers.”
On the flip side, people with the largest social networks had 39% less cognitive decline than others, says Skovron.
She has developed a program called “Circle Talk,” which aims to facilitate person-to-person engagement, belonging, connection and ultimately community. Circle Talk is good for people who are new to a community or have recently lost a partner. It’s offered weekly for 12 weeks.
The program’s steps include: A welcome; a warmup fun activity, such as naming their favorite color or childhood activity, a recap of last week’s topic, a main theme such as talking about a cherished childhood memory, regret or rejection, and making connections.
The aim is to create common ground, Skovron says. She quotes Desmond Tutu: “A person is a person through other people. It is not ‘I think, therefore I am.’ I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.”