This week celebrates men; it’s Men’s Health Week and Father’s Day on Sunday will honor all the great dads out there. Work and family often come first for many men and as a result they may not make the time to nurture their friendships in middle and older age. But new research suggests that middle aged men’s health is more threatened by isolation than by cancer, heart disease or obesity.
It’s not hard to allow friendships wither in middle age when adults are busy establishing a career, raising a family and possibly caring for aging parents; there is precious little time to hang out with friends. This can be a dangerous trend heading into old age when children leave the nest and suddenly you realize that your friend group has dwindled to a handful of people you may only see once or twice a year. And according to a large 2015 Brigham Young University study, people who live alone or are categorized as lonely or isolated have an increased risk of premature death of up to 32 per cent.
Nearly a third of seniors over the age of 65 live alone in the United States and by 85, nearly half of elderly adults live alone. Men in particular seem to need an activity to bond with other males which is probably why their closest friendships were formed at school, while playing sports or during military service. Women often meet with friends regularly to catch up over coffee or a glass of wine with no scheduled activity other than listening to one another. But most men need a project, activity or goal to keep them interacting with their peers on the regular.
This father’s day, consider a gift that will bring your dad, or granddad, together with friends. Sign him up for a woodworking or photography class if that’s something he might enjoy, or give tickets to a sporting event or concert to share with a buddy. Has he always wanted to learn to scuba dive, fly a helicopter or drive an Indy car? Look up some old chums and see if they would be interested in joining him; a shared new passion could be a great way to rekindle old friendships or discover new ones.