Dr. Sara Zeff Geber on Senior Isolation and Solo Aging

Strategies for reducing isolation among solo agers – an interview with Sara Zeff Geber

Sara Zeff Geber, an expert in solo aging and a Nexus Insights Fellow, noticed something interesting. A lot of Baby Boomers were spending a lot of time, resources, and money taking care of their aging parents. And it occurred to her to wonder, for childless seniors like herself, “Who’s going to do that for us?” 

That question launched a new line of research for her, and ultimately led to her book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers.

Zeff Geber was interviewed recently by Dr. Namrata Bagaria and Dr. Paul Merkley of Seniors Junction on their podcast “Ending Seniors’ Isolation, One Conversation at a Time.” The two asked Zeff Geber for her insights into reducing isolation and loneliness for solo agers.

Among the many insights she shared:

  • Solo aging is becoming more common. “Almost 20% of Baby Boomer women didn’t have kids.”
  • Everyone, even married couples, should plan as if they will be solo agers. “One spouse will almost always pre-decease the other, and you don’t have a crystal ball.” 
  • “The research shows that isolation and loneliness are more deadly to us than 15 cigarettes a day,” said Zeff Geber. The most important thing, she suggested, is to build and maintain a social network. 
  • As Bagaria points out, “Paul and I have learned on our journey that some people are naturally proactive about connecting and building a network and some have to pick up that skill.” Said Zeff Geber, “Learn to be a joiner; find a group that interests you; it could be a golf club, a book club, a dog-lovers group, or a similar-minded group at your church or synagogue”

Listen to the full podcast.

Dr. Jacquelyn Kung on The Main Thing podcast

Aging Into Happiness – Dr. Jacquelyn Kung 

“We get happier as we get older,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Activated Insights, and a Nexus Insights Fellow. Kung was recently interviewed by Skip Lineberg, host of The Main Thing Podcast, about elder care, and her passion to improve the aging experience.

The main thing I’ve learned in my lifetime so far is that getting older is what you make of it. And I see it as full of good news,” said Kung. Research from the University of Chicago shows that from the 50s onwards, into the 80s, happiness increases. “Socially, we get happier as we get older, and the research shows that.” 

Mentally, people do lose recall memory, which allows them to remember particular words, or people’s names, “That does go out the window when we age,” she said. Recognition memory, however, remembering faces or the situations we’ve been in together, stays pretty constant through life.

As for physical decline, Kung said that a lot of people think of aging and physical decline as synonymous. “If we don’t stay physically active, then we do physically decline. But when we stay active, walking or exercising, there isn’t that physical decline as much as we think.”

“Getting older is what you make of it. And I see it as full of good news.”

Kung said that her passion for working in aging services began when she was a child, living across the street from a nursing home. “There were lots of people sitting around in their wheelchairs, waiting for people to come to visit them, and I realized I could help.” She began by volunteering in that nursing home. Over the course of her career, she continues to see many ways to help. “What I’ve learned since then is that there are huge opportunities to improve aging in the US.”

Kung’s company, Activated Insights, is a technology company that supports better employee and customer experiences for aging service providers. It provides intelligence, services, and insights to people who run assisted living communities. “If you’re not happy with your score in one place or another,” said Kung, “we have a set of software tools to help you get better.”

Listen to the podcast:

Dr. Jacquelyn Kung has worked in senior care for nearly 30 years, first as a nursing home volunteer then caregiver. Her team now works tirelessly to bring innovation and ideas to Activated Insights’s 4,000 partner locations. Dr. Kung is the CEO of the Senior Care Group at Activated Insights, a Great Place to Work Company.

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