Scientists now say loneliness is lethal to the elderly, the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to a recent Madison Magazine article. Having friends, activities you enjoy, and "a purpose" is essential to not only a happy, but also a healthy retirement.
"We don't do a great job in this country helping people figure out how to have a happy retirement," says 67-year-old Dr. Ken Robbins, medical director for Rock County and director of the 10-bed Geriatric Psychiatry Inpatient Program at Stoughton Hospital. "Most people's fantasy is either doing what they like doing on vacation or doing what they liked in their 20s, which is often a time in life that gets romanticized." Many older adults fly under the radar while struggling with things like substance abuse or depression that compound existing medical conditions. Others wrestle with finding their identity when it can no longer be defined by a profession or family responsibilites. 1
For many people volunteering can fill that void. For older volunteers in particular, volunteering is associated with lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression and better physical and mental health. "It's not just socialization that volunteering offers," says Diana Jost, RSVP's Assistant Director, "but the opportunity to continue meaningful work in one's life."
RSVP plays an important role in helping seniors (55 and better) find a volunteer job that is a good fit. "We don't just give you a list of options," Jost explains. "Our volunteer coordinators spend time getting to know you and your interests, and then suggest volunteer opportunities that match your schedule, interests and skills."
Read more about how Madisonians, including 104-year-old RSVP volunteer Fred Leidel, are keeping active, happy and healthy in retirement in Living Longer and Stronger in the 608 in the June issue of Madison Magazine.
1, Maggie Ginsberg, "Living Longer and Stronger in the 608," Madison Magazine, June 20, 2019