Social: Living in a Community of Peers
Ruth Michaelis is blunt when asked what it's like to move into a retirement residence after 33 years in the same apartment: "It's a good move, but a hard move. I didn't think I'd like it."
Unfortunately, the 80-year-old widow didn't have much choice. Ruth was a victim of the infamous 2008 Maple Leaf Foods listeria outbreak. "I've never been so sick in my life," she recalls. Though she eventually recovered sufficiently to leave the hospital, Ruth wasn't well enough to move back home. That's when she moved into Erin Mills Lodge in Mississauga, Ontario.
Despite her initial misgivings, she couldn't be happier. She sees how living alone was taking a toll. "I wasn't caring for myself as well as I should have," she admits. "It's better to be someplace where there's always someone to help me."
According to life transition consultant Dr. Amy D'Aprix, Ruth's situation isn't uncommon. "As we age, our support system shrinks. Sometimes we don't realize how isolated we've gotten until we're around people again." She points out that not only does social isolation make us feel lonely but it might be endangering our health. In fact, according to a 2003 report by the World Health Organization, social isolation makes us candidates for premature death, lower general well-being, depression and higher levels of disability from chronic diseases. "When someone moves to a retirement residence, they have personal contact again," says D'Aprix. "Since everyone's at the same life stage, they have tremendous support."
Ruth won't argue with that. Not only is she happy someone's watching out for her health, but she loves the active social life at Erin Mills. "We play cards, we exercise. I'm getting into more things like book club and art classes. I wouldn't be doing these things if I was still living alone. It's so good to interact with other people."
This is one of a series of articles detailing seven pillars of a fulfilling retirement. Six other articles discuss other critical aspects of an ideal retirement including the following: