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Not So Golden Years: Socialization

The loss of a spouse, or driving privileges, or having extended family move from the area, can lead to isolation. There's an old-fashioned social network available for seniors willing to take the plunge.
The loss of a spouse, or driving privileges, or having extended family move from the area, can lead to isolation. There's an old-fashioned social network available for seniors willing to take the plunge.

After working 45 years as a beautician, Sarah Holdenback developed arthritis and carpal tunnel, forcing her to retire. At first, she spent her days home alone, often crying on her couch. But at the urging of her daughter, she agreed to visit the Broome West Senior Center. "I always suffered with social anxieties even as a kid but I think by coming here and my faith in God, it's made me a new person. Even at 66, it's given me new life."

For the past six months, Sarah has enjoyed meeting new people while chatting over lunch or at the popular Zumba class. The long term benefits of socialization includes quite a list, but perhaps the proof is in the faces of the seniors themselves as they enjoy not only the various activities but also each other.

"Studies do show the more you socialize the more you get out, the healthier you are, that's body and soul. It's critically important that we challenge ourselves emotionally and intellectually," said Donna Bates.

Misconceptions on just who goes to a senior center can be a road block. Will I fit in? Is this for me? But taking that first step can prove to be a positive one.

"Some people have these notions that senior centers are for poor, older people. But actually, by coming to a senior center, you can help your community," said Bates.

Positive social support and activities in a senior center help older persons defeat loneliness and isolation. The goal is a higher sense of self-awareness and quality of life.

"It makes me have compassion for ones that are in worse predicaments than I've had. It just gives me a warm feeling of compassion and joy," said Holdenback.

Other ways that seniors can get out and interact include volunteering and participating in a number of senior athletic leagues. The key is being more socially engaged which can lead to a happier and healthier life.

The Aging Futures Partnership has developed a booklet filled with ideas for ways to stay connected. It is available through the Broome County Office for Aging. This Friday at 6 p.m., NewsChannel 34, along with the Office for Aging, will host a live phone bank to help connect local seniors with services in our area.
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