Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Loneliness. It’s a killer. Really. An AARP research study found that 17% of adults age 65 and older are isolated. They are facing a 26% increased risk of death due to these subjective feelings of loneliness. Of those over age 75, 51% are living alone. It’s a very safe bet that you and I know someone in this category.

Chronic loneliness is already posing a disturbing mental health threat and it’s growing. We live in a society where offspring leave the nest and relocate in far-off places with little connection to their parents beyond telephone calls, texts and emails. Many aging boomers are hanging on to larger homes rather than downsizing to more collective living options such as assisted living facilities or even apartment complexes where they would have more social contact. Downsizing may be a loss of square footage but that’s outweighed by the expanded social contact that can be gained.

Exploring options to participate in fitness programs or continuing education courses is another avenue that lonely boomers are going to need to consider if they are really motivated to reduce their isolation. Libraries and religious facilities are also logical places to seek out social connection.

The most obvious solution is for boomers to actively support each other. If you know someone living alone, you can be a link to the outside world for them. You’re helping them feel less lonely and you’re helping yourself. The baby boomer generation can act as a giant buddy system which would go a long way to combatting this potential mental health crisis.

You might be thinking that this loneliness problem is something far off in your life. Ask someone who has lost a spouse about the one thing that has changed most about their life and you will see that loneliness tops the possible answers you will get. Yes, this should be the time to do great things with our lives but it does not take much to throw those plans out the window. Illness, death or disability can change your social dynamic irrevocably overnight.

Final words of advice to baby boomers. Unite! Be there for each other. It’s that simple and it will prove that boomers are not as self-centered as some think we are. So there’s that.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here.

Lucky 13

I’m not exactly sure when I knew I was meant to be a writer. It must have been when I was very young. It could have been when I realized words were important because whenever I asked my mother how to spell a word she made me look it up in the dictionary. So words are collected and put in books. Maybe that was the start.

By the time I was in high school, I was typing up short stories that I was sure the New Yorker magazine would be delighted to publish. In college I was bored with the standard curriculum but enthralled to be taking creative writing classes. My mentoring professor told me I had writing talent and I believed her.

Once established in my public relations career, I was writing speeches, congressional testimony, news releases, and articles for publications. I was getting paid to write – I was a professional.

I had enjoyed mystery novels for quite some time but it finally occurred to me that perhaps I could write one. I was living in Annapolis when I got serious about the possibility. The mystery subgenre that interested me most was the accidental detective. A crime is committed and with no experience for detecting, the main character attempts to solve the mystery. It’s even more interesting if it imparts some knowledge about people and places that are outside your own experience. Annapolis and the boating scene on the Chesapeake Bay offered just such an opportunity. And that’s how my mystery novel entitled Head Above Water came to be. I wrote the kind of mystery novel that I liked to read. That was a long time ago.

For years I would not let anyone read it. But then one friend was allowed to see it, and then another, and another and another. All were enthusiastic and encouraging. By then self-publishing had emerged as a real avenue for aspiring writers, so after 13 years, Head Above Water is finally available on Amazon and Kindle. I’m no longer a pre-published author as it used to read in my byline. I should savor the moment but it has freed me up to work on the new mystery featuring an aerial photography pilot in New Mexico. No time to waste because I am not waiting 13 years for this next one to get published.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here.