5 Tips to Prevent Loneliness and Find Community as You Age

Judy Ryan, Ph.D., former president and CEO of the Good Samaritan Society, offers advice for leading a well-balanced life in your golden years.

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- Posted on Jul 26, 2018

A happy group of senior adults

Hope Irvin Marston and Jerry Borland found the best way to overcome their loneliness after losing a spouse was to reach out to others. Judy Ryan, Ph.D., former president and CEO of the Good Samaritan Society, would applaud that. Her 46 years in healthcare administration and 15 years of retirement have shown her that relationships are the key to active aging and preventing loneliness in your senior years. Her advice:

Make a plan for your retirement. Consider all aspects of your wellbeing: physical, mental, emotional, financial and spiritual. Dr. Ryan recommends the book Always We Begin Again, by John McQuiston II, a modern rendition of the Rule of Saint Benedict. It inspired her to live a balanced life incorporating work, study, community and prayer. Her simple take on the Rule: “Be still. Be well. Do good work. Keep in touch.”

Find a spiritual focus. “Be still” refers to Psalm 46:10 (“Be still, and know that I am God”). “If you don’t have a sense of the divine—of something greater than you—it’s difficult to make sense of the changes in life as you age,” Dr. Ryan says. “I try to be awe-filled, grateful, joyful and faithful.”

Develop a daily pattern for balanced living. “Be well” for Dr. Ryan means not only following a healthy diet and exercising regularly but also continuing to learn and to grow in her faith. She has a daily practice of meditation and journaling, using the book A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk With God, by Rueben P. Job, Norman Shawchuck and John S. Mogabgab.

Stay engaged with what you care about. That’s where “Do good work” comes in. Dr. Ryan remains an advocate for senior care through partnering with rural communities—something she was passionate about during her long career. She lives in a Good Samaritan Society senior community in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and has seen other residents pursue their own interests. Different folks run the community’s chair volleyball program, library and art room. One man wanted to do something to recognize the strength of the people of the Northern Plains, so he asked residents to share their stories and then put them together in a book.

Take charge of your relationships. “Keep in touch” with your family, friends and former colleagues. “Don’t wait for someone else to alleviate your loneliness,” Dr. Ryan says. “Reach out. Get involved.”

Visit good-sam.com/guideposts to hear more from Dr. Judy Ryan about living an active, balanced senior lifestyle.

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