“You feel as though you're alive again.”
Image via BBC
When 90-year-old Derek Taylor lost both his partner and sister, he understandably began suffering from an intense sense of isolation and loneliness. “The older you get, the less people seem to contact you,” Taylor said in an interview with BBC News, “and I thought, what can I do to stop being lonely?” It wasn’t long before Taylor decided to do something concrete about it.
And it’s a good thing he did. A 2012 study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that adults over the age of 51 have a higher risk of mortality when suffering from social isolation. The study also showed a correlation between loneliness and high blood pressure, elevated cortisol levels, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This presents an vast national health concern considering a third of elderly Americans aged 65 and up live alone, and that number jumps to half by the time they reach 85, the New York Times reports. In the UK, roughly 5 million people over the age of 65 report feeling isolated from society and use television as their primary source of companionship. Clearly, Taylor was not alone.
Branching out into his local community in Manchester, Taylor found that using the phone more often, getting in touch with neighbors, and trying to meet as many people as possible significantly helped curb the loneliness. Since beginning his experiment, Taylor has made new friends and joined several local social clubs that work to benefit the community, Mashable reports.
Taylor offered his tried-and-tested tips to the Manchester City Council, that has since incorporated them into a pamphlet promoting the area’s “Age-Friendly” engagement programs. In the brochure, Taylor suggests morning meet-ups can help extend social networks, explaining,
“Coffee mornings are an ideal chance to discuss current events, including plans for future projects for the over-50s, and how homes and neighborhoods can be designed to be age-friendly.”
No matter how old you are, getting more involved in your local community has been shown to improve your mental health. Whether that involves finding nearby volunteer opportunities or asking a few Tinder matches out for coffee, the point is to reach out first and figure out the rest later. In Taylor’s own words, “You feel as though you're alive again.” One month into 2017, we could probably all feel a little more alive. Check out Taylor’s full list of tips below to learn how:
Image via Manchester City Council