Hard to give a better present than this wondrous article by Rabbi Richard Address, posted on SeniorLiving.org. I came from a family hallmarked by extremes, by sharp differences in how we viewed money, use, interplay. From a young child, my faith in the “theology of relationships,” what Rabbi Address describes as “the desire to be with other people; to share life, in all of its aspects” is what saw me through. Amen & hallelujah!
Shalom. As a society, we seem to continually engaged in staying young and living longer. Of course, we all know that the “staying younger” part of our lives has more to do with how we feel in our souls that how we actually feel in our bodies. The explosion of aging in our world has brought a new attention to how we age and how we choose to live as we age. The crush of baby boomers, now turning 62 and 65, is reshaping our culture as we speak. Everything from architecture to grand-parenting is in flux and change. Yet, it seems that one issue of life remains constant. Relationships.
I am a believer in what I have come to call the “theology of relationships”. This is not very high brow. It is pretty simply, actually. It is a belief that the most powerful aspect of our lives, especially as we age, are the relationships that we have. The desire to be with other people; to share life, in all of its aspects, is a key to health of the soul and thus attitudes to living. We stress this because we do not wish to be alone. In fact, as research has shown, the great fear of so many of us as we age is that we will be alone.
So, relationships are primary and the nurturing of these relationships is a key to health and fulfillment. In fact, research has even shown that membership in religious institutions benefits longevity because such membership increases contact with others and promotes relationships.
Dr. Andrew Newberg, who directs the Center for Integrative Medicine at Jefferson Medical University on Philadelphia, recently published an article which over viewed some recent academic research on the power of relationships in longevity. He looked at several studies and noted that: “religiosity may confer benefits for some individuals. Religious service attendance is predictive of higher life satisfaction among elders….Thus, there appears to be an array of benefits from religious and spiritual practices and experiences that benefit physical and mental health”. (“Spirituality and the Aging Brain”. Andrew B Newberg. Generations: Vol. 35. No. 2. Spring 2011. p.87,88)
The message from all of these studies? Keep your friends. Put yourself in situations of social contact and engagement. Enjoy the mental, emotional and physical stimulation of others and do all you can to maintain and strengthen the relationships we have.