When we refer to someone as “unaffiliated,” we usually think of someone who is not officially attached to or connected with an organization or group – mostly political or religious. In fact, when I Googled the word, the first few articles that come up are Pew research studies on the religiously unaffiliated.
In the past few weeks, I have attended or learned about numerous social events with seniors in the Chicagoland area who happily live alone. Many still drive their own cars and have a high quality life. They are members of their own, unnamed and always evolving, social networks. I’m not referring to the 70 or 80 year old group, but those who are in their mid to late 80’s though their 90’s. I would consider most of them “unaffiliated.” They do not belong to senior centers, religious senior groups or senior specific clubs. They check in on each other on an almost daily basis, especially during this terrible Chicago winter. They are mostly healthy and vital. Of course, there are those who are “snowbirds” during winter months, living in communities that have their own activities, but today we will focus on those seniors who live independently and toughed out our Chicago winter.
I notice that these particular groups are always evolving, because, sadly, as one person loses a spouse, these groups step in and provide a new social outlet. When one member moves on, a new member becomes available to take their spot. Many of these 85+ dynamos also belong to multi-aged groups – groups without the name of “ager”, “senior”, “active” etc.
These dynamic and independent elders (I’m always looking for the right title) are always such an inspiration to me. They keep themselves busy with a multitude of activities. Many play cards, volunteer, meet each other for breakfast or lunch and are usually home by dark. They stay current on local and world affairs. Many still keep in touch with high school friends, and sorority and fraternity siblings of decades gone by. They have learned the computer and can keep themselves busy at home when the Chicago weather doesn’t permit them to venture outside.
Yes, many are on fixed budgets or don’t want to spend their hard-earned money, yet this cohort consists of consumers of goods that help them stay independent. They are hard to reach since they can’t be found at local senior centers or retirement buildings. They aren’t the senior who we will find by attending a networking event or a chamber of commerce meeting.
These are individuals who we meet by listening to their stories as we wait in line at the local grocery store, asking questions of those eating at the local breakfast establishment and those we meet through their children when talking about their older parents.
If you would like to brainstorm about how to reach out to the “unaffiliated” senior, contact me at Focus on Aging. We have plenty of ideas for you.