Etowah Senior

Mary Barger is shown here holding the popcorn she received at the Etowah Area Senior Citizens Center on Friday. Seniors were told how they could make popcorn a heart-healthy snack by using heart-healthy oils such as avocado or walnut oil and by limiting the amount of salt they use.

We will talk today about how love can improve your life, whether it is with a significant other or your friends. You will see just how love can be beneficial to your health as well as how you can meet new friends.

But this year, we need to think beyond the box when it comes to Valentine’s Day. There are many people isolated at home with very few contacts with family or friends because of the pandemic. It is more important than ever to reach out to these and show them you care. You don’t have to put yourself at risk by helping them. You can just make a phone call, send a card in the mail, leave them some homemade treats, or even leave a little gift on their front porch. You can call a nursing home or hospital to see if you could leave some cards. These things may seem trivial to you, but to someone who has almost no contact with others, this can make a world of difference to them. We are asking that you do something special for at least one senior this Valentine’s Day. Not only will you enhance their life, you will feel so rewarded for doing something for others.

If you do not know that Friday is Valentine’s Day, you must be hiding under a rock! Everywhere you go, you will see hearts everywhere. You will see heart-shaped candy, cards with hearts, balloons in the shape of hearts, stuffed animals with hearts, and even clothing with hearts. The origin of the heart being used as a symbol dates back to the 1200s. It is still used as a symbol of love.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in most countries. Different cultures have developed their own traditions for this festival. Here in United States, we give our romantic partners, friends, and family members cards and gifts to show our fondness or love of them. Marriage proposals are even popular on this day. I guess you could say that Valentine’s Day is a day of love!

We all know that love feels good. It improves our mood and makes us feel silly and giddy, but it goes beyond that. Studies show that not only does love get our hearts thumping, it also helps us live longer, be healthier and have happier lives. Read on to learn about some of the ways love is good for you.

• Love boosts your immune system. Studies show that people in relationships are less likely to get sick after being exposed to flu and cold germs. Hopefully, it also works for COVID-19.

• Love is good for your heart. Spending time with someone you love or even thinking about them causes your heart to beat faster and stronger, improving your circulation. And since people in love tend to be happy and content, this translates to a lower risk of heart disease.

• Love lowers your blood pressure. Happy couples have lower blood pressure than singles. This is linked to contented couples reporting less stress, anxiety, and depression, all which can contribute to high blood pressure.

• Love improves your memory. Being in love activates the region of the brain where memories are formed and stored. Increased levels of dopamine, a brain chemical, triggers the growth of new brain cells which can improve memory and make your smarter.

• Love alleviates pain. It helps to reduce cholesterol levels and alleviate pain. In a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control of 127,000 adults, married people were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain.

• Love can help you have fewer doctor visits. This may be explained due to the fact that people in relationships take better care of themselves. Your partner will make sure you have good oral hygiene. They may motivate you to eat healthy. Over time these good habits translate to fewer illnesses.

• Love can reduce depression. Social isolation is clearly linked to depression.

• Love can contribute to a decline in heavy drinking and drug abuse.

• Love can help lower stress. If you are facing a stressful situation and you’ve got the support of someone who loves you, you can cope better. If you lose your job, for example, it helps emotionally and financially if a partner is there to support you.

You now may be saying that you are bound for gloom and doom because you are single. Research has found that having a good network of friends can have many of the same positive effects as being in a relationship. The following will show you how having a circle of friends can be just as important.

• Friends can extend your life. People who have strong friendships are less likely to die prematurely than people who are isolated. In fact, a study from the National Academy of Sciences shows that the effects of social ties on lifespan is twice as strong as that of exercising and equivalent to that of quitting smoking.

• Friends can make you generally healthier. Studies have shown that blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference and levels of inflammation are lower in those will strong social ties.

• Friends can keep your mind sharp. A 2012 study showed that people who exhibited loneliness had a higher instance of dementia.

• Friends influence us. Friends encourage us to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise.

• Friends can help with life traumas. Friendship will help you cope with instances of divorce, serious illness, job loss, or loss of a loved one.

• Believe it or not, just a single touch by another one can improve your life. Oxytocin is released when you are touched or kissed. Oxytocin is an important brain chemical that is associated with feelings of calmness and mood and helps to alleviate stress.

Some people can feel quite sad around Valentine’s Day. Maybe you do not have many friends or don’t know how to make new ones. Or maybe you have moved into a new community and have not made friends yet. As you grow older, your skills in making friends can get a bit rusty. The following are some ways in which you can most definitely meet new people.

• Accept invitations. Just getting out can increases your chances of meeting others.

• Check out continuing education classes that are free from your local colleges. The people often in these classes are older adults. They may have some programs just for seniors.

• Visit a senior center such as ours. Most senior centers have many activities, programs and trips for the older adults in the community. We will let you know when we resume normal activities.

• Pursue your interests. Attend classes in painting, cooking or whatever you are interested in.

• Set up a social media account such as Facebook or Instagram. You will be able to connect with old friends and new ones.

• Invite some neighbors for dinner.

• Work out in a nearby gym. If you don’t do machines, then go to their exercise classes. We will also have exercise machines and exercise classes at the center when we reopen.

• Express your faith. Go to church. Most churches will introduce new attendees around.

• Volunteer in you community. You can find many opportunities for volunteering such as hospitals, day cares, schools, museums, and animal shelters.

And lastly, maybe you are looking for a relationship with the opposite sex. Below are some ideas where you can look for love.

Where the women are:

• Doing arts and crafts

• Dancing

• Taking educational classes such as language

• Participating in book clubs

• Going on shopping trips

• Playing bingo

• Gardening and flower arranging

Where the men are:

• Going to a sporting event

• Playing billiards and ping pong

• Golfing and fishing

• Eating at a restaurant

• Shopping at sporting goods stores or automobile parts stores

If you aren’t in a relationship and miss the giving of cards and gifts, there are many out there who would love to have a visit from a friend on Valentine’s Day. Visit the nursing homes or hospital and take cards or candy as a gift. The reward you will receive will be much greater than all the gifts you could receive in a lifetime!

Sue Walker is the executive director of the Etowah Area Senior Citizens Center. She may be reached by calling 423-781-7632.

Sue Walker is the executive director of the Etowah Area Senior Citizens Center. She may be reached by calling 423-781-7632.

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