Hello and welcome back to Part 2 of the Dogpound on aging. Last week, I was discussing growing old and how science continues to...

Hello and welcome back to Part 2 of the Dogpound on aging.

Last week, I was discussing growing old and how science continues to come up with a long list of items that will shorten your lifespan, sometimes measured in minutes. Which is kind of scary. For example, I am drinking a lime Diet Coke right now, and per the studies, it just took 15 minutes from my lifespan. To be honest I did not feel a thing. LOL. Anyway, I left my pack of readers with a tag line that scientists have found something that is worse than smoking or obesity and can shorten your lifespan by eight years or more. If you have not Googled it by now, it is loneliness. Yep! They say loneliness is the new smoking. It is as bad as inhaling 15 cigarettes a day, and the mortality risk is greater than obesity. Social isolation of older adults is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually. It is such a problem in Great Britain that they have actually created a “minister of loneliness” position to measure it. In California, they have the first health care provider to directly address loneliness by hiring a “chief togetherness officer,” who will directly address loneliness and its impact on health. There are a couple of things that can be done to fight loneliness; one is having a purpose in life. For many, a sense of purpose is more important than making money, and is associated with a reduced risk of mortality, stroke, heart attack and Alzheimer’s disease.

Also evidence shows that optimism about aging has an impact on our health, adding 7.5 years to one’s life span. Those with an upbeat view of aging recover faster from serious medical issues, and they have up to an 80 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events. So they conclude that even with better changes in our lifestyles and more medical advances, it is still very important that we have something to get us up in the morning, someone to share our lives with, and approach each day with a smile. With that being said, I think there is something else that we need to do, not just for ourselves, but for others who may suffer from loneliness. We have seen them; that older person at work that never has anyone sit with them at lunchtime, or the lovely old lady who sits on her porch all day watching the grass grow, that person at a get-together who looks kind of lost and is standing in the corner nursing her iced tea. You know who I am talking about. They are all around us, and we need to step up and help in any way possible to end their loneliness. Take time to say hi to your elderly neighbors or take over a plate of cookies, sit with someone at lunchtime, or make small talk with that person in the corner at the party. These are just a few examples. We just need to reach out. Not only will this give them something to smile about, but it will also give you a purpose in life. It will do both of your bodies a world of good.

“Know that you are at the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, for you shall live it only once. Be comfortable growing older.” – Louise Hay

Doctor: You’re in good health. You’ll live to be 80.
Patient: But, doctor, I am 80 right now.
Doctor: See, what did I tell you.
Overheard: “My kids don’t call, they don’t write, heck, they don’t even text me!”
Doctor to elderly man: “You have gall stones, kidney stones and bladder stones. Welcome to the stone age!”
Overheard: “When I was young, I wanted to be older. This is not what I was expecting!”
I think that is enough for today. As always, be good, do good, play safe, and remember that loneliness is not limited to strangers, it can be family members too: mom, dad, grandparents. Text and Facebook can only go so far.

– JR