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We all want to live independently for as long as we can. We may assume the keys are diet, exercise, and wealth, but we may be overlooking something very important – the degree of community and caring provided by our neighbors, friends, and loved ones.

A high-touch environment may be just as important as the high-tech devices that support “aging in place.” This is especially true since so many women live alone during retirement, and since many men and women see their circle of friends contract as they age. Birthrates have declined, which leaves fewer children and grandchildren to turn to for assistance with errands, yardwork, or help around the house. Living alone can be hazardous for those developing dementia: about 60% of such seniors wander at least once from their homes into unfamiliar or inhospitable environments.

Checking in on the elders we know is the kind and right thing to do: in doing so, we may help them stay engaged and active. We might even save them in an emergency. As we age, we should welcome our friends, neighbors, and children and grandchildren to check in on us and maintain those all-important close ties.
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