Regular readers know that I am a retired newsman. I worked for 20 years for Reuters News Service and spent a year in the home office on London’s Fleet Street. During years of writing the news I was often surprised to learn that ‘news’ was not necessarily something that just happened. Often a discovery would be made of something that occurred long ago, but just came to light. My years in the news business taught me that anything that people weren’t currently aware of was – news.
With that in mind I confess that I have just come to the realization that the baby boomers are fast becoming senior citizens. I just ran across a page in Pew Research Center about boomers that blew me away. The page was dated December 29, 2010, hardly news it would seem. What I learned was that roughly 10,000 baby boomers turned 65 on that day and that another 10,000 would turn 65 every day through 2030. The world is experiencing a silver tsunami. That was news to me.
Here are some more of the figures from the Pew page published at the end of 2010, “Currently, just 13% of Americans are ages 65 and older. By 2030, when all members of the Baby Boom generation have reached that age, fully 18% of the nation will be at least that age, according to Pew Research Center population projections. But don’t tell Baby Boomers that they are old. The typical Boomer believes that old age does not begin until age 72, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey. Also, while about half of all adults say they feel younger than their actual age, fully 61% of Boomers are feeling more spry than their age would imply. In fact, the typical Boomer feels nine years younger than his or her chronological age.”
I am actually a pre-baby-boomer having been born in 1940, so I am fully into the senior citizen experience, for better or for worse. Unfortunately, being over age 65 can be tough on a person who hasn’t taken care of him/herself for whatever reason.
I have written much about the scourge of obesity on the population.
Medical News Today reports that loneliness has an almost equal impact on early death as obesity among seniors. That was a piece of stunning news to me.
MNT quoted John Cacioppo, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, saying that he found dramatic differences in the rate of decline in physical and mental health between lonely and socially engaged older people.
“The physical and mental resilience of older people who have satisfying relationships is much stronger than in lonely older people, Cacioppo says, as they are more able to “bounce back” from adversity.
At a TED talk in Des Moines Cacioppo expanded on that, “We think of loneliness as a sad condition but, for a social species, being on the social perimeter is not only sad—it’s dangerous,” he says. “The pain and averseness of loneliness, of feeling isolated from those around you, is also part of a biological early warning machinery to alert you to threats and damage to your social body, which you also need to survive and prosper.”
There are three core dimensions to healthy relationships, according to Cacioppo and his colleagues:
•“Intimate connectedness” from having someone in your life who “affirms who you are”
•”Relational connectedness” from having mutually rewarding face-to-face contact with people
•”Collective connectedness” from feeling that you are part of a group “beyond individual existence.”
These three core dimensions reminded me of a post I did last August – What is the Value of hugging?
One of the great benefits of hugging stems from the release of a hormone, oxytocin, in the body which reduces blood pressure as well as stress and anxiety. “Partners in functional relationships have been found to have increased oxytocin levels. The hormone promotes bonding, social behavior and closeness between family members and couples.” Clearly, this would have very beneficial effects for seniors, as well as everyone else.
You can read the entire post at the link to learn further benefits of hugging and close physical contact.
So, if you are one of the newly-minted 65 year olds, welcome aboard. I hope you are able to pick up on Professor Cacioppo’s three core dimensions and enjoy a long full life. Some hugging wouldn’t hurt, either.