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Hip Hip Hurray!!!

Updated: 2 days ago

I have new hip! It’s truly a miracle of modern medicine, and hopefully will keep me hiking for a few more decades. As I was recovering on my couch at home, the U.S. Surgeon General and the Ezra Klein New York Times podcast both published pieces about the ever growing epidemic of loneliness in America and it’s impact on health.

The U.S. Surgeon General wrote in his April 30th New York Times article, “

“At any moment, about one out of every two Americans is experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. This includes introverts and extroverts, rich and poor, and younger and older Americans. Sometimes loneliness is set off by the loss of a loved one or a job, a move to a new city, or health or financial difficulties — or a once-in-a-century pandemic.”

He goes on to describe the measurable impact of loneliness on health. He says, “When people are socially disconnected, their risk of anxiety and depression increases. So does their risk of heart disease (29 percent), dementia (50 percent), and stroke (32 percent). The increased risk of premature death associated with social disconnection is comparable to smoking daily — and may be even greater than the risk associated with obesity.”

While I am lucky to not experience these health conditions, I am still, of course, navigate aging. But as I recovered from my hip surgery, loneliness was not my concern. I am single woman in my 60s living alone, but I am lucky to live in Nevada City Cohousing and my community showed up for me at every stage of recovery. My daughter, working across the country, did not have to come stay with me or worry too much. She knew I was in good hands.

It was not just one neighbor who took care of me. Many pitched in and by the end of the first week, I had to tell people to stop bringing food as I had more than I needed. Neighbors took turns checking in morning and night, filling my ice machine and fetching things I couldn’t reach. One neighbor even stayed overnight with me a few nights, just in case. A quick email out to my community would get me whatever I needed, whether that was more half & half for my morning coffee or a ride to the doctor. Having several nurses in the neighborhood was especially useful, but I also appreciated the company my neighbors—from toddlers to fellow boomers—provided to me. They kept me well position on my couch, fed, and laughing. All of this contributed to my both my physical recovery and mental well-being.

A neighbor offering some watermelon to another neighbor

As the recent research shows, loneliness is an epidemic and it is hurting the physical and mental health of Americans. Community is the antidote. It really helps if that community is next door and not people spread all over town.

Whether it is short term care after surgery, or our long term mental and physical health, community is a great investment. But that’s the thing, you have to invest in creating and maintaining your community or it won’t be there when you need it. I have lived in my community for 15 years (and yes, I found the land and acted as developer too), I’ve cooked many common dinners, showed up to workdays and meetings, and been an active part of this community. And when I needed my community, they were happy to help.

When I talk about cohousing or other forms of intentional living, so many people tell me, “I love the concept, but I’m just not ready yet.” Well, if you wait until you really need the community, I worry you’ll missed the boat and will likely need to find other alternatives for aging care. And you will also have missed out on the preventative medicine community can provide us, whether we are building our mental health resilience or going through surgery.

As I continue to recover from my hip surgery, I am past the phase where I needed food and help walking.But I still benefit from my community, whether it's a meal with fellow mothers away from their children on Mother’s Day or a walk around the community chatting with neighbors as I get my exercise.My two-year-old neighbor even gave me watermelon.All of the support around me makes me feel better everyday.

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