Relationships matter — if you want a happy retirement.
When describing longevity, the popular blog about.com begins its post with this strong statement on relationships.
Relationships are an essential part of health. Isolation and loneliness create responses in the body similar to those of stress. The body does not function as well as when we are connected to other people. Invest time with family and friends not only for happiness, but for physical health too.
The post on longevity strongly associates relationships with happiness and with health. It links social relationships and feelings of usefulness with lower rates of chronic illness and mortality. The blog post quotes other research that found links between loneliness ratings and Alzheimer’s disease.
Strong social relationships are as important for older people as immunizations are for babies. They are the key to adult well-being and to healthy aging.
How do I value and nourish relationships in my Postworksavvy life?
My closest relationship is with my husband of 47 years. After living so much life together it’s sometimes easy to take this relationship for granted.
Gretchen Rubin in her recent book, Happier at Home writes about her resolve to give a genuine greeting when leaving the house or coming home. I’m proud to say that this has always been true for us. We make a point of saying hello and good-bye. There’s nothing sweeter than to hear the front door open and a happy “I’m home” that signals my husband’s arrival back to the house..
There is research on life expectancy that associates increased life expectancy and being in a happy long-term relationship. The association is stronger for men than for women, perhaps because women are more likely to have other close relationships. Nonetheless, intimacy in life is a treasure.
Family members also rank high in relationships that matter.
We are close to our adult son and the relationship has now expanded to closeness with our daughter–in-law and our infant grand-daughter. It’s a happy coincidence that they live only about 30 minutes away from us so we see each other regularly.
To protect and enhance these relationships we are careful to respect their privacy while staying available to help when asked and when needed. They need our love, appreciation, and compassion just as much as we need theirs in return.
Many readers are fortunate to have strong relationships with extended family members with regular contact. Long distance challenges make visits with extended family infrequent as these visits involve cross-Canada or international travel. We treasure the visits but must often resort to memories or emails or telephone contacts.
Over the years we have nurtured many friendships. A few office friendships have continued although work place friends have mostly fallen away. There are ‘couple’ friends, cottage friends, and city friends.
Some live close by and others live far away. These relationships developed from shared experiences — helping each other, playing bridge together, beach conversations, community barbecues, exercising together at the gym, going to the same book club, volunteer gigs, or participating in community activities. Some friendships with neighbours go back many years when we relied on each other for child care, pet sitting or car pooling.
No man is an island, entire of itself — John Donne
Because social relationships important in healthy aging, it’s important to consider how to improve and enhance encounters with other people. Such encounters can develop into a stronger connection and become a friendship.
Self sufficiency only takes us so far. As human beings, we depend on one another and thrive when in sustaining relationships.
Strong relationships make life rewarding. Spending time with someone you love, or with a good friend gives an immediate happiness payback!