Posts Tagged ‘loneliness’

by MARY JO DILONARDO

I’ve never met some of my friends. I work virtually, so I interact with my coworkers on daily conference calls. At least one I’ve never met in person, yet often he’s the first voice I hear every day. We talk about our dogs and our jobs, the weather and our families.

Similarly, I know lots of people in rescue who I interact with via social media. We send messages back and forth about dogs that need help or training tips. I’ll never meet many of them or even talk with them on the phone. But they still play a key part of my life.

It’s easy to believe that the friends who really matter are your BFFs — the ones you open your soul to about your hopes, dreams and failures or the friends you’ve had since high school. But a recent story in The New York Times points out that you also need a network of low-stakes, casual friendships. These lightweight liaisons offer all sorts of benefits. The more you have, the more connected you’ll feel to your community and the less lonely you’ll feel.

Why ‘weak ties’ make you strong
Sociologist Mark S. Granovetter of Johns Hopkins University refers to these casual relationships as “weak ties.” His research found that weak ties can help people build bridges, for example assisting them find jobs and other connections. They can also help them feel more involved in the community by having links to social groups.

Weak ties or these peripheral relationships can include parents in the school carpool line, the cashier at the grocery store, and neighbors you meet when you walk your dog.

A 2014 study found that although these casual interactions might not seem very helpful, they actually benefit your social and emotional well-being.

Talking to people you meet throughout the day when you’re running errands or working also expands not just your social circle, but your worldview, the Times story points out. You’re chatting with people who might not have everything in common with you, but still becoming richer from the interaction.

In addition, by asking questions of your hairstylist or your neighbor, you’re learning more about them than your likely first impression. That changes your view of them and, from that, alters your view of the bigger picture around you.

Fewer friends as we age

Young adults amass lots of friends but by the mid-20s when responsibilities increase and free time dwindles, so does the number of friendships. As we get older, we no longer have the need to be out with friends all the time. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still benefit from relationships — even super-casual ones.

Gillian Sandstrom, a senior lecturer of psychology at the University of Essex, studies social interactions. She found that sustaining these minor connections keeps us involved in the community, particularly after a move away from close friends and family or after the loss of a loved one.

“A lot of us think it’s not worth our time to have those kinds of interactions, that they can’t possibly provide any meaning,” Sandstrom tells the Times. “We’re focused on whatever is next and we don’t stop and take that second to enjoy the moment.”

How to make more friends

If you don’t normally chat to the people around you, you may want to start.

Experts suggest taking the time to talk to people you might normally overlook. Instead of just thanking a waiter or clerk, strike up a conversation. Make a point to talk to a familiar, friendly face you see often at the gym or when you walk in the park.

Don’t just ask about the weather or some generic, “How’s your day going?” Take time to get to know that person so the exchange and relationship becomes more meaningful for both of you. The more often you chat and the more involved the discussion becomes, the more likely a friendship of some sort will blossom.

https://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/why-you-need-bunch-acquaintances-not-just-bffs?utm_source=Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=0b6acd8a4f-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_MON0513_2019&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fcbff2e256-0b6acd8a4f-40844241

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A new study from the University of Chicago found that people who report feeling lonely also say they sit or stand physically farther away from close friends and family. Their “personal space” for intimate partners is larger than those who report less loneliness, even when adjusted for marital status and other factors such as gender, anxiety and depression.

In two experiments, published Sept. 6 in PLOS ONE, the researchers surveyed nearly 600 U.S.-based men and women on how far they preferred to sit or stand near different groups of people, including friends and family, romantic partners and acquaintances. On average, loneliness doubles the odds of someone staying farther away from those in their closest circle of intimacy. (It had no effect on how far they preferred to stand from acquaintances or strangers).

“To our knowledge, this is the first direct evidence for a link between interpersonal distance preferences and loneliness,” said Elliot Layden, a UChicago graduate student and first author on the paper. “This finding may be important to consider in the context of loneliness interventions—such as client-therapist interactions and community programs seeking to combat loneliness.”

The effect persists even when scientists adjusted for how much social interaction the person experiences; for example, those who felt lonely despite high levels of social interaction still kept their distances.

“You can feel alone even in a crowd or in a marriage—loneliness is really a discrepancy between what you want and what you have,” said Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Laboratory, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, and senior author on the paper.

The authors say this fits with the evolutionary model of loneliness, pioneered by Stephanie Cacioppo and her late husband, John Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago and a co-author on the paper, who passed away earlier this year. The Cacioppos’ transformative work in this field connected feelings of loneliness to physical health outcomes, including sleep disturbances, inflammation and earlier death.

The evolutionary model suggests that even though loneliness might be expected to prompt people to move closer to others, it also increases an individual’s short-term self-preservation instincts, triggering an instinct to stay farther away. Previous Cacioppo studies using neuroimaging techniques have found evidence that lonelier individuals also exhibit heightened vigilance for social threats—such as social rejection or interpersonal hostility.

“This ‘survival mode’ means that even though a lonely person wants more social interaction, they may still unconsciously keep their distance,” Stephanie Cacioppo said. “The hope is that by bringing this to conscious attention, we can reduce the incidence of divorce as a byproduct of loneliness and increase meaningful connections among people.”

Cacioppo and her team are working to incorporate the finding into a program to reduce loneliness with the National Institutes of Health, she said. In further studies, she wants to explore gender differences in personal space; men are consistently found to prefer larger personal spaces than women.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-lonely-people.html


93-year-old Mary Derr sits on her bed near her robot cat she calls “Buddy” in her home she shares with her daughter Jeanne Elliott in South Kingstown, R.I. Buddy is a Hasbro’s “Joy for All” robotic cat, aimed at seniors and meant to act as a “companion,” it has been on the market for two years. Derr has mild dementia, and Elliott purchased a robot earlier this year to keep her mother company.

By MICHELLE R. SMITH

Imagine a cat that can keep a person company, doesn’t need a litter box and can remind an aging relative to take her medicine or help find her eyeglasses.

That’s the vision of toymaker Hasbro and scientists at Brown University, who have received a three-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to find ways to add artificial intelligence to Hasbro’s “Joy for All” robotic cat .

The cat, which has been on the market for two years, is aimed at seniors and meant to act as a “companion.” It purrs and meows, and even appears to lick its paw and roll over to ask for a belly rub. The Brown-Hasbro project is aimed at developing additional capabilities for the cats to help older adults with simple tasks.

Researchers at Brown’s Humanity-Centered Robotics Initiative are working to determine which tasks make the most sense, and which can help older adults stay in their own homes longer, such as finding lost objects, or reminding the owner to call someone or go to a doctor’s appointment.

“It’s not going to iron and wash dishes,” said Bertram Malle, a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown. “Nobody expects them to have a conversation. Nobody expects them to move around and fetch a newspaper. They’re really good at providing comfort.”

Malle said they don’t want to make overblown promises of what the cat can do, something he and his fellow researcher — computer science professor Michael Littman — said they’ve seen in other robots on the market. They hope to make a cat that would perform a small set of tasks very well.

They also want to keep it affordable, just a few hundred dollars. The current version costs $100.

They’ve given the project a name that gets at that idea: Affordable Robotic Intelligence for Elderly Support, or ARIES. The team includes researchers from Brown’s medical school, area hospitals and a designer at the University of Cincinnati.

It’s an idea that has appeal to Jeanne Elliott, whose 93-year-old mother, Mary Derr, lives with her in South Kingstown. Derr has mild dementia and the Joy for All cat Elliott purchased this year has become a true companion for Derr, keeping her company and soothing her while Elliott is at work. Derr treats it like a real cat, even though she knows it has batteries.

“Mom has a tendency to forget things,” she said, adding that a cat reminding her “we don’t have any appointments today, take your meds, be careful when you walk, things like that, be safe, reassuring things, to have that available during the day would be awesome.”

Diane Feeney Mahoney, a professor emerita at MGH Institute of Health Professions School of Nursing, who has studied technology for older people, said the project showed promise because of the team of researchers. She hopes they involve people from the Alzheimer’s community and that “we just don’t want to push technology for technology’s sake.”

She called the cat a tool that could make things easier for someone caring for a person with middle-stage dementia, or to be used in nursing homes where pets are not allowed.

The scientists are embarking on surveys, focus groups and interviews to get a sense of the landscape of everyday living for an older adult. They’re also trying to figure out how the souped-up robo-cats would do those tasks, and then how it would communicate that information. They don’t think they want a talking cat, Littman said.

“Cats don’t generally talk to you,” Littman said, and it might be upsetting if it did.

They’re looking at whether the cat could move its head in a certain way to get across the message it’s trying to communicate, for example.

In the end, they hope that by creating an interaction in which the human is needed, they could even help stem feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety.

“The cat doesn’t do things on its own. It needs the human, and the human gets something back,” Malle said. “That interaction is a huge step up. Loneliness and uselessness feelings are hugely problematic.”

http://www.njherald.com/article/20171219/AP/312199965#//