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Comfort is needed by all

May 6, 2012
By CATHY BROWNFIELD - Family Recovery Center , Salem News

At age 71 Annette made up her mind she'd had enough. She threw out her husband of 50 years. She didn't care if she ended up in a one-room apartment on public assistance. She wasn't living with her husband's depression any longer. (He denied there was a problem and refused to get help.) They had traveled to many points of interest around the world, but she would never be happy. Life was too short to spend it as she had up to this point.

Bridget, at age 71, wished she had options and could leave her husband. He hadn't changed by now so it was unlikely he was going to change. Neither of them was happy. Both just drifted along, waiting.

At age 81, ten years later, Annette has landed her feet on the rest of the continents, truly having been around the world to every one of those continents. She has found companionship and says she never thought she'd find someone who as loving and caring as this gentle man she had thought she knew for years. They fill the need for comfort and love for each other. Both of them are still active and going strong.

Bridget passed away last year.

The two women were the same age. But while Annette made up her mind to really live for the rest of her life, Bridget was bound by isolation that gave way to depression and loss of hope. She drifted through her days with her husband, less involved with anyone outside those four walls, until she died.

The great philosophers have ever asked, "What is the basic social nature of man?" People are social creatures. We need to be nurtured, to feel connected, to feel we have worth, a reason to put our feet on the floor each morning.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) believed man to be out to satisfy his own wants, to get whatever he could without regard for anyone else, that man is selfish and solitary, unless society prevented it. But other evidence supports the belief that humans are, by nature, social creatures who need interaction with each other.

Given a choice of a wire mesh mother figure that provided food or a terry cloth figure of a mother who provided contact comfort, infant rhesus monkeys favored the terry cloth mother form, like children who attach themselves to their mothers and security blankets or favorite soft dolls they can hug when they are frightened. Perhaps everyone, every age is the same. People need the contact, the comfort, acceptance, encouragement, the touch of other people for good emotional, mental and physical health, and to find a reason to put their feet on the floor every morning.

For the rhesus monkeys who suffered severely in isolation, all was not lost. They were paired up with younger, normal, playful monkeys and they learned to be playful and active participants in their society.

Children are not the only people who need comforting. Parents, often both of them working outside the home-or worse, different shifts-to provide for their families often find little or no time for each other to nurture and strengthen each other and keep their relationships vibrant and alive. Older couples whose families are grown come to terms with their empty nests in one way or another. They are likely to be socially involved with their peers, find worth and esteem in volunteer activities, are emotionally involved with their matesthe things that season their lives with zest for beingor they live in isolation, tired, drained, depressed, needing connectedness, nurturing, love, encouragement and comfort, and sometimes, suffering underlying, undiagnosed conditions like alcoholism.

May is Older Americans Month, promoting the well being of America's elders.

Definition: Elder: 1. an older individual: senior; 2. one having authority by reason of age and experience.

Elders aren't finished with their duties because their children have grown up and moved on with their lives including producing grandchildren. Elders have wisdom and knowledge to share through example. People don't retire from family and society obligations.

Family Recovery Center promotes the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. For more information about FRC's education, prevention and treatment programs, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail,



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