January 28

Close Relationships Key To Happier, Healthier Lives

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

A little over two weeks ago, much of the focus of both the national and local media was on the Powerball lottery. Interest in the Jan. 13 drawing skyrocketed as the jackpot soared to a record $1.6 billion. Millions of people were dreaming about what they would do and how their lives would change if their numbers were lucky.

There were three winning tickets. One was sold in California, one in Florida and one in Tennessee. Before you factor in taxes, the three winners would each receive more than $500 million.

ABC News reported that the odds of winning the jackpot were nearly 300 million to one.

Last weekend, my wife and I picked up one of my aunts and went to visit another aunt who is in the hospital. She is in her 90s. Three weeks ago, she broke her hip. She was in the transitional care unit at the hospital for rehab.

Before the visit, her son left me a voice mail about how much she was anticipating our arrival. Afterward, he sent me a text message to let us know that my aunt really enjoyed the company.

We were able to make someone happy simply by spending an afternoon, sitting together in a hospital room and engaging in face-to-face conversation.

In a video posted last month on Ted Talk, Robert Waldinger talks about what keeps us happy and healthy in life.

Robert is the director of a study that Harvard University has been conducting for the past 75 years. Because of how long the study has been underway, he is the fourth person to serve as director.

In the study, researchers have tracked the lives of two groups of men. One group consists of men who were sophomores at Harvard when the study began in the 1930s. He describes the other group as coming from the poorest, most troubled and disadvantaged families in Boston.

The study began with more than 700 participants. About 60 reportedly are still alive and participating in the study.

What the study shows, Robert emphasizes, is that things such as wealth and fame are not the keys to happiness.

What are? The lessons that Robert says have come from the years and years of research are that people who have social connections to family, friends and community are happier. They are physically and mentally healthier. They live longer.

Loneliness is toxic, he says. People who are lonely are less happy and experience declines in their health sooner.

He adds that the quality of the relationship matters and that we should replace screen time with people time.

When it comes to retirement, he says that the people who are the happiest after they retire are the ones who have been able to replace their work mates with other individuals with whom they can have close personal relationships.

I can’t help but think about all of the opportunities for social connectivity that are so readily available in senior living and assisted living communities. It is one of the biggest advantages the communities have to offer.

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