Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

March 26, 2014

Fred Goldenberg: Polar vortex can't chill happiness

TRAVERSE CITY — Parents of a friend of mine recently sold their winter home in Florida and plan on living year-round in Traverse City.

The main reason for this snowbird reversal is loneliness. Once they moved into a Traverse City-area independent senior living complex they developed several close friendships which were missing in Florida. Couple that with having their son and daughter-in-law close by, and it became a no brainer. Damn the polar vortex, we’re coming home.

University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo said extreme loneliness can increase an older person’s chance of premature death by 14 percent. Cacioppo identified three core elements to healthier living: having someone in your life you feel affirms who you are; having face-to-face contacts that are mutually rewarding; and feeling you’re part of a group or collective beyond individual existence.

“Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate among strangers isn’t necessarily a good idea, if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you,” said Cacioppo at a recent American Association for the Advancement of Science’s meeting.

My mother-in-law is a perfect example. Six years ago she lived a life of solitude in her home downstate. Due to her physical limitations she no longer drove, could barely walk and was forced to rely on others. She suffered from a massive depression that exacerbated her physical condition. She moved to an independent living senior complex here in Traverse City and, within six months of making friends, she was going from apartment to apartment and from the dining room for coffee in the morning to dinner with friends at night. We’re convinced the change extended her life five more years.

Traverse City is blessed with several independent senior complexes offering living arrangements, social interaction and activities allowing for safe, healthy and productive lives. Not everyone can afford to move into these complexes nor want to, but there are many ways in which you can interact and socialize.

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