Research shows that happiness is linked to longevity. Put simply: happier people live longer. Research also shows that people with strong social networks are happier and healthier — and thus live longer, more active, more satisfying lives.
Why? Being with other people creates feelings of belonging, self-worth, and security. Humans tend to thrive when they feel needed, accepted, and valued by others. And all of us need a source of comfort and support from time to time.
But social circles can dwindle as people grow older. The loss of friends can leave us with fewer people to talk to and go out with, and that can lead to isolation and loneliness in seniors. This can, in turn, cause anxiety or depression. The problem can be compounded with the loss of a spouse or close sibling. Grief can be overwhelming and exhausting — and make even the thought of socializing unappealing. It can turn a person away from the very thing he or she needs to feel better.
Encouraging social interactions for seniors, bringing people together, and creating opportunities for new friendships is the idea behind the Dignity Memorial LIFT® program.
“This is not a grief program,” emphasizes community outreach coordinator and program director Jackie Snider. “It is a social support program for widows and widowers, but you don’t have to be a widow or widower to attend — any senior is welcome. The goal is to get people out and get them to socialize with others who have had experiences similar to theirs.”
Snider runs the program in the Houston area, which launched nearly 30 years ago. She recalls that six ladies attended the first luncheon she hosted. For a while, they met monthly just to talk and laugh. Today, she hosts a nonstop schedule of events, including two to four luncheons a week, dances, concert and casino outings, holiday parties, and cruises and trips to places near and far.
“Often people who have lost someone, especially a spouse, feel like no one really understands how they feel. Because of that, they can be reluctant to get involved with unfamiliar people or new groups, but a LIFT gathering is a safe place where they know people understand where they are coming from,” Snider says.
Carolyn Hendricks of Pasadena, Texas, has been attending LIFT functions for more than a decade. She was 56 when her husband died, and she says she spent three or four years “in sad shape” before deciding she was ready to engage with new people again. Hendricks liked the idea of a luncheon because she found it difficult to go out to eat by herself. In the years since showing up at that first lunch gathering, she’s attended musical events, parties, and out-of-town excursions with the group. “We do all kinds of things,” Hendricks says. “And I’ve made all kinds of friends.”
During the years she’s been involved with the program, Snider has seen hundreds of close friendships form. She’s even witnessed the blooming of a few romances. In fact, she counts 12 marriages from the Houston LIFT group she runs. “You’re never too old to make new friends or fall in love,” she says, with a laugh.
There is no cost to be a part of the Dignity Memorial LIFT program, and most Dignity Memorial providers in North America offer the program. There are no membership fees or dues. Participants pay only for their meals and other expenses, such as show tickets and travel — and, of course, their weddings!
Whether you are a professional caregiver or a close friend or family member who has experienced the loss of loved one, Dignity Memorial providers recognize the important role of caregivers and provide a multitude of resources to ensure your success in this vital role. To learn more about Dignity Memorial and download your HCA discount certificate, please visit hca.dignitymemorial.com.
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