Writer’s Quote Wednesday is hosted by Marsha Ingaro who blogs at Always Write. This week her writing prompt is Socializing, Is It Worth Your Time. The writing challenge runs from Wednesday through Tuesday and the rules are posted on her site.
No Man Is An Island.John Donne
This is a subject I have had on my mind a lot lately. After living for seven months with a 92-year-old who defies logic and the blue zone principle, I am questioning just about everything I thought I knew about aging. In the long run, what really matters?
Doctors and scientists tell us that diet, exercise, intellectual stimulation, stress, and satisfying personal relationships matter. I pay attention to all of those things, but if I had to put them in priority order, socializing would not be near the top. I strongly believe that personality dictates where that falls on the list.
I have always considered myself an introvert and am most happy when I am alone with my own thoughts, reading a good book, taking pictures at the beach, blogging, or spending time with my husband. After reading this description of an Ambivert, I think I have some extrovert tendencies but still fall closer to the introvert personality type. Of the twenty-five statements that described an ambivert, the following three resonated most with me.
- You like meeting new people, but not always. Sometimes you don’t want to make the effort of starting a new getting-to-know-you conversation. It depends on your mood.
- You can stay in the back and listen, but will definitely speak up if you have something to say.
- You are comfortable in many different friend groups. You socialize with various circles and appreciate each circle for what it can offer you (sports, book club, wine club and more).
As an introvert/sometimes extrovert, I am internally motivated and I create my own energy to a large degree through my interests. My ambivalence about needing/wanting people in my life is something I am starting to pay closer attention to as I age. My husband, family, and a handful of friends have always fulfilled that need.
As cognitive abilities decline, sources of energy drop away and leave a void. If we have neglected to cultivate healthy relationships, or worse, have not yet learned how to cultivate healthy relationships, we will be at a deficit in our declining years.
When Things Change
There are many contributing factors as to why people retreat from society as they age; death of a spouse, divorce, anxiety, retirement, relocation, hearing loss, lack of interest, and loss of self-confidence to name a few. A once social individual can become alone and isolated very quickly without an internal will or external support system. Even the most profound introvert must maintain the self-awareness to know when the balance has tipped from ‘I Want to Be Alone’ to I am alone and lonely. We have faced some significant changes to our lives these past months and we’re not done yet. While self-imposed changes are very different than those that have been thrust upon us it is still important to maintain awareness and make adjustments.
I Want to Be AloneGreta Garbo
What Works For Me
My calendar is not as full as it used to be. That is mostly by choice, but some of it is due to changing interests, physical fitness, and desire. Let’s just say, it would be very easy for me to retreat within myself and remain there, but, ‘no man is an island’, and we all need fortification through healthy social connections.
I generally choose to participate in small group activities that provide physical activity (tennis, pickleball) or intellectual stimulation (book club, Mahjongg) where I can interact with people on a superficial level without getting personally involved. Once in a while I connect to someone I’d like to know more about, but not often. I have never been a BFF kind of gal, but sometimes I need to share my thoughts with another woman who understands me. Those connections are rare and valued treasures in my life and didn’t happen overnight.
At this stage of life, I am content to busy myself with like-minded people who are energetic, positive, and uplifting to be around. It helps that I live in an active community, with lots of opportunities to interact so I don’t have to work at it. That can be both a positive and a negative, for someone with introvert tendencies.
Stuck for Ideas?
Even if you don’t have a built-in social network in your community, there are lots of places to look for like-minded people to hang out with.
Churches – not looking for religious or spiritual guidance, no problem, today’s churches offer a wide range of social programs to the communities they serve.
Local Library – many community libraries offer programs tailor-made for retirees, like computer classes, photography classes, IMovie and Iphone classes.
Volunteer Organizations – volunteering should benefit both you and the organization. Choose one that supports your interests and fits your skill-set.
Your Neighborhood – start a walking group, a lunch bunch, a wine lovers group, book club, sewing circle, etc.
Senior Centers – most communities have outreach programs for senior citizens and individuals looking for socialization, life-long learning, and fitness classes.
Start a Blog – connecting to a blogging community can provide the kind of positive, uplifting support that we need as we navigate through retirement and aging.
What About You
Setting the COVID years aside, have you noticed a ‘pruning’ of sorts when it comes to socializing as you age? Do you consider socializing an important part of mental health? Are you an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between? Does your personality impact how you socialize? Is it possible to live a life of contentment without a social network?
I Came, I Saw, I Left Early….