Friendships and getting older
When we ask Chandrika Desai how she stays connected to people, she has a hearty laugh. “It’s my personality,” she says. Desai is a jovial 74-year-old who epitomises how important social engagement could be. But like she tells us, passively becoming part of a group is not the only way to do it. You need to be active at your end, too. Every morning, Desai sits with a list. She has a large network of family and friends, and each morning she calls different people. “I make an effort to reach out,” says Desai who lives on her own, leads her own life but is deeply connected to her two children who live overseas.
While pursuing a PhD in Health and Social Psychology. Holt-Lunstad tried to find the answer to the question, do social relationships reduce our risk of dying early? Her study published in July 2010 showed that people with strong social relationships are 50 per cent less likely to die prematurely than people with weak social relationships. The impact of poor social connection on reducing lifespan is equal to the risk of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and a risk that’s greater than the risk of obesity, excess alcohol, and lack of exercise.
My mother, 66, is a great example. Despite being an introverted person, she has found a way to redeem her retirement days. She has a small social circle outside of family. She tends to these deep and lasting friendships. At 3 am each morning, she connects with her friends for Bible study and prayer through Facebook Messenger. She finds time to visit friends, funerals, and parties; attends Bible study in church on Friday afternoons; and do short walks, usually to Auntie Badid's property. Auntie Badid had a stroke last year.
These days, I've been thinking about how I'll be spending my days when I get older.