Finding community in Colorado SpringsSep 29, 2023 10:12PM ● By Rhonda Wray
On a recent mundane Monday morning, I decided to pop in at the Silver Key at Tri-Lakes Senior Center in Monument—for no reason other than I hadn’t been there and I was curious.
Cheerful John flashed a ready smile and held the door for me and everyone else that came and went that morning. Sandy kindly offered to show me around, pointing out where walks, crafting, exercise, lunches, a grief group, Bible study and much more happens at the Grace Best Education Center. They’ve been there for the past year, sharing the space well with the school.
Somewhere in the morning’s hum of activity, a fragrant bowl of ripe Palisade peaches appeared on the table by the front door, to the delight of all who passed by. And the candy bowl wasn’t just there for looks. Piece by piece, the level of chocolate steadily diminished.
The faint sound of thumping, energetic music from a “Lean & Fit” class filled the lobby. There was chitchat about topics from pets to skin care. These seniors know how to mix it up and have fun!
At the hub of this activity is Sue Walker, the center’s engaged and energetic manager of seven years. With a ready smile and greeting for all, she is clearly beloved by those who frequent the center.
“How’s your daughter?” she asked one woman, who shared an update. Then Walker spoke of her own daughter’s upcoming wedding with the easy back-and-forth of friendly conversation.
The activities are wonderful—whole-person activities that benefit the physical, mental, spiritual. But the relationships are really at its heart. Feeling seen and understood—doesn’t everyone need that? People who know your name. Friends who sense what questions to ask. Someone to create with, or to huff and puff through another session of Zumba with. Fellow sojourners to study with, grieve with, break bread with.
“Come as strangers, leave as friends,” says the description for one of the center’s activities, Circle Talk. It requires nothing more than gathering and conversing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study about loneliness in 2020. (Ironic timing, right? Little did we know we were all about to be isolated in the new, disorienting and at times heartbreaking way only a worldwide pandemic could bring.)
The findings showed that nearly one-fourth of those 65 and older are socially isolated from the loss of family or friends, the effects of chronic illness, hearing loss or living alone, for starters. This presents a health risk that may rival smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.
The risk of dementia can increase by 50%. Heart disease and stroke are more likely (29% and 32% respectively). Patients with heart failure had a 68% increased risk of hospitalization and 57% more emergency department visits.
You may also like: Get a free memory screening and more brain healthy tips
On the mental health front, depression and anxiety present more often. Please, readers, pick up the phone and dial 9-8-8 if you’re feeling hopeless. There is help.
We are all unique individuals with varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. That needs honoring and understanding as we relate to others. And certainly, being comfortable with alone time is a gift we give ourselves.
But we all need someone, or hopefully, a few somebodies. We’re not meant to be alone 24/7. If you’ve ever felt lonely in a crowd, you know it’s not the amount of people that matters, but your connection to them.
So, reach out to one of the Clubs, Support Groups and Senior Center activities listed in the BEACON every month.
Neighborhood groups, churches and walking buddies are sprinkled throughout our city, waiting to welcome you.
Your whole-person health is at stake.