Dr. Heather Stowe, Clinical Director, Department of Aging and Community Living
Dr. Heather Stowe, Clinical Director, Department of Aging and Community Living

Happy New Year! It was so great to see everyone last month at the Mayor’s Annual Senior Holiday Celebration. As we ring in 2020 with a fresh start, it’s a great time to resolve to stay connected to our neighbors and our communities. Mayor Bowser reminded us at the celebration that for every individual who came to celebrate the holidays with us, there were several others who were home, without family, friends, or neighbors to check in on them. This month, I’ve asked DACL’s Clinical Director, Dr. Heather Stowe, to contribute some tips and advice on how you can stay connected and help someone else who may be feeling isolated as we close out the holiday season. Dr. Stowe oversees DACL’s direct services, including the Aging and Disability Resource Center and Adult Protective Services. As always, thanks for being a vital part of the community and helping us make D.C. a place where everyone—no matter their age or ability—can live boldly!


Happy Holidays, Happy New Year

Dr. Heather Stowe, Clinical Director, Department of Aging and Community Living

These greetings, and many like them are ringing out around us at this time of year. Joy is almost tangible in the air. Everyone seems a little more friendly, decorations and lights make homes and stores a little brighter and festive.

We might be spending more time than usual connecting with others, whether it’s a lunchtime gathering, coffee with friends we don’t see as often, or an email just to say hello. Holidays tend to be a time when we cement our connection with family and friends — even those that we might not see that often during the year.

Maybe it’s because the year is coming to an end, and we’re thinking about what has happened and what we meant to do this year. Maybe we’ve lost someone special to us during the year, and we want to hold those dear to us just a bit closer.

I know that it will come as no surprise to anyone to know that science has discovered that connection — that human-to-human interaction — is good for our health. We’re social creatures! It’s our connection to other people (and to our pets) that enables us to survive and thrive

People who engage in meaningful, productive activities with others tend to live longer, have a better mood and maintain a sense of purpose. Being with other people, connecting on some level, helps us to remain healthy, keeps our brain engaged and slows decline.

For some folks, however, this can be a very lonely time of year — a time when they feel that lack of connection to others even more sharply than usual. Just as connection can improve our health and well-being, the lack of connection can actually make us ill.

Research has linked a lack of connection to others to a higher risk for depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a decline in mental sharpness. Isolation can make us sick! People who find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a spouse or partner, separation from friends or family,
retirement, loss of mobility, and lack of transportation are at particular risk.

Amidst all of the business of our lives, let’s try to remember our friends, family and neighbors who might be alone, who might be lonely. Mayor Bowser has challenged each of us to connect with three people who might be in this situation. So, reach out to that friend, family member or neighbor and
ask them if they need a ride to the grocery store or doctor’s appointment or ask them to go to church with you.

Slow down; sit down with them for a few minutes and chat.

If you find yourself feeling alone, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 202-724-5626. We are here for you and can connect you to activities, programs and services to keep you engaged.

Take the first step, and connect —it’s good for you, and it’s good for them!

Best wishes for a prosperous New Year!

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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