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Everybody needs somebody to love

Companionship: Whether romantic or platonic, we all need attachments to thrive

Posted: May 2, 2010 10:29 p.m.
Updated: May 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Bev and Louie Moll met at a Friendly Valley bingo game in 2004, and married two years later. The couple often shares lunch at the Senior Center, along with adoring gazes and smooches.

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A splendid quality of the aging heart and mind: they are never too old to be shared.

Indeed, friendship and love, like timeless magic elixirs, have a potent knack for producing happier thoughts and moods, healthier bodies, and even added years.

Researchers have concluded this to be true: Companionship, trust, intimacy, and a sense of belonging - they all equate to a better quality of life. And whether through romantic love, or caring, platonic ties, we humans need attachments to thrive.

Retired college teacher Joan Angelis, 77, praises the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center as a godsend to the elderly, particularly for the relationships it provides.

"Many seniors would be home watching television and feeling alone if they didn't have this place to come to," said Angelis, a longtime Senior Center volunteer and participant. "It's the loneliness that really gets to you."

Angelis cautions that isolation can lead to serious problems among seniors, including depression, health problems and even alcohol abuse.

Clearly, staying physically, mentally and socially engaged are vital contributors for a senior's outlook and wellbeing.

For Angelis, a substantial amount of her passion stems from religious devotion.

"I go to Mass every day. But whether you have strong faith or not, you must have something that is of meaning to your heart and soul," she said.

Looking across the Senior Center dining room, replete with more than 100 senior diners, live big band music, enthusiastic conversations, and carefree dancing, Angelis declared, "This is it."

A doctor's prescription
Dr. Ronald Schwartz, a longtime Santa Clarita Valley physician and Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital staff member, concurs that seniors flourish from close relationships and socialization.

"As we lose people we were close to year after year, we lose our support systems and feel more isolated in the world," said Schwartz, who periodically provides health and wellness program lectures at the Senior Center. "Going to the Senior Center really does help take care of some of those feelings. There are many activities and people to talk with. It helps make life easier and you feel better."

Being with people also lessens chances of developing clinical depression, "which is not a normal component of aging," he stated.

Schwartz, who grew up in Brooklyn, reminisced about the importance of assisting others through life's most difficult situations.

"Back in those days when someone died you went to their house and brought food to their family for one month. People helped you get through it," he said.

While the community response to such crises may be different today, the need for support systems and camaraderie is just as vital, the doctor noted.

"Humans are herd animals," he said. "We don't like to hang out by ourselves. Being with other people and (positively) changing our internal environment are good ways of dealing with the stresses of life and preventing feelings of isolation."

Another way to make friends and improve one's health is through participating in exercise programs, such as those offered at the Senior Center, Schwartz said.

He knows firsthand of those plusses.

"I have been coming to the Senior Center on Saturdays for Tai Chi for 22 years," Schwartz said. "After we finish, we all go out and have breakfast together."

It's never too late
Many people who meet at the Senior Center become to-the-end pals.

Some discover even deeper relationships.

Former widows Bernie and Dorothy Katz found a late-life bond between salad and dessert: They actually met in the Senior Center's dining room.

According to Dorothy, 68, a retired licensed vocational nurse, another marriage was not on her radar. Bernie, a retired truck driver and Korean War vet who is 10 years her senior, had different navigation plans.

A persistent, positive-thinking kind of guy, Bernie's endearing qualities and sense of humor ultimately won out.

Now married for four years, the couple remains ardent Senior Center participants through attending classes and activities, volunteering for fundraisers, enjoying the live entertainment and those tasty noontime lunches that brought them together.

"We still sit at the same table where we met," Dorothy said smiling. "Looking forward to going to the Senior Center has been a big part of our life. We would be lost without the Senior Center and the friends that we have made there."

Love à la Moll
For Louie and Bev Moll, 96 and 79 respectively, their late-life love story began in 2004 at a Friendly Valley bingo game.

A sage auction/antique business expert and born charmer, Louie had been strolling down the table, kissing the ladies' hands. Somehow he missed Bev's, but made a U-turn, giving her dainty paw two tender kisses.

Click.

Call it chemistry, serendipity, the call of the wild, or smitten seniors who in a split-second recognized their continued need for affection and companionship.

They began "seeing each other."

In time, Louie declared to Bev, "I need someone to caress and someone to caress me."

Her elated answer: "You got it!"

Two years later, the joyous couple and 160 guests enjoyed a lavish Friendly Valley wedding.

"It was a wonderful day," Bev recalled of that very special occasion. "The big finale was Louie doing the garter. He was trying to do it without his teeth, going further up my dress to get it! What a Casanova and what a roar!"

It's heartwarming having someone who truly loves you, Bev said.

"We are always together," she said. "At night we sing to each other, ‘You are my sunshine,' give kisses and say, ‘I love you' with a butterfly kiss. It's great to have someone to hold you and tell you they love you, and you can laugh with."

During the day, the couple often shares lunch at the Senior Center, along with adoring gazes and smooches.

Louie, who unfortunately has been ill in recent weeks, is currently recovering from pneumonia and other complications. Around the clock, Bev cares for him, while trying to help him snap back to his old (young) self.

"I've saved his life three times (before now)," said Bev of her mate.

Observing the way she looks at him, it's evident that he has returned the favor.

"God gave us a great partner for as long as we live, and we will take care of each other as long as we can," she said.

The Molls' message to everyone: "You are never too old for love."

The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center is a multipurpose center dedicated to independence, dignity, and quality of life for our senior citizens and the community at large. The Senior Center accomplishes these goals through community resource management and coordination, advocacy, and a full spectrum of direct quality services. The center offers a wide spectrum of programs and services including enjoyable recreational activities and "ageless learning," Supportive Services, Home-Delivered Meals, a Handyworker (home modification) program, Respite (Adult) Day Care, congregate lunches, Trips and Tours, Health & Wellness lectures and free health-related events and clinics, Visually Impaired services, paratransit services, volunteer opportunities, and much more. An intergenerational Senior Center, many of its activities (such as art, exercise and personal development) are open to adults 18 and older. For further information about the Senior Center, please call (661) 259-9444.

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