08/11/2014 02:59 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2014

Connection and Reflection for Healthy Aging


My grandmother turned 87 last month. She is healthy, has a bustling social life, and is very connected to the people around her. She is active in her church, her community, and her family. She is thriving.

Maybe it's her Italian roots, but her life has always centered around faith, family, friends, and community. She worked outside the home as well, but it is those four areas that have sustained her. Despite life's setbacks and disappointments, she continues to have immense faithfulness and happiness.

Her faith has been constant, and strong. Every single day, despite any commitments on the calendar, she takes time to pray and reflect. I have to believe this, along with her connectedness to family and activities, has kept her mind, body and spirit so healthy all these years.

I wonder: how many of us model this commitment to reflection? This devotion to build quiet time, prayer, and reflection into every day? I struggle with this constantly, as my "To Do" list sometimes overtakes this. I realize as demands on my time increase, however, that the quiet reflection time with a clear mind is when ideas, peace and restfulness really come to me.

I also question if we are losing the ability to really unite with each other in person. In this time of extreme connectedness -- and I mean technology -- I wonder how "connected" we really are. We sit on trains and look at our smartphones. We cross the street and fire off a text message at the same time. We always make sure we have our devices and plugs when we leave the house, but may forget to kiss our loved ones goodbye. We keep our eyes on our phones but less on what's happening around us.

Believe me, this is not proselytizing -- I am just as guilty as the next person. I love my devices. I think the smartphone and Internet are the best things ever -- instant communication and information for this lover of learning. But is it coming at a cost to connecting in person with loved ones? From really hearing what the person across the table is saying? At the cost of not finding a few minutes in the day to quietly reflect or pray or be mindful?

I worry that this is a dying art -- the ability to be unconnected to technology, and to instead focus on in person relationships, prayer, connectedness, and reflection. To be less worried about catching up on social media and more focused on stopping by a friend's house in need. Because I think maybe the non-technology things will sustain us longer.

I'm not recommending we eschew our personal devices. Instead, I'm thinking there must be a way to balance technology and real, live, in-person, paying-attention connectedness. I haven't figured out that exact balance yet, and it's a constant work in progress. I try some things that work, some that don't. I have to check myself when I recognize that I am paying a little too much attention to my phone and less to the person I am with. I do know that when I wind down the electronics before bed, restfulness, sleep, and mindfulness is way easier. I gain clarity, peace, and rest. Hmm. Maybe Gram is on to something.

I'm lucky that I have a strong role model to keep me honest on it. Although there is a physical distance between us, my grandmother and I talk often. She always renews my faith in myself, others, and that the right thing will happen at the right time for the right reason. She guides me to prayer, reflection, and comforting thoughts. And I've been darn lucky to have that guiding light in my life. I truly believe her health at her age is due to her connection with others and her ability to take time for mindfulness, prayer and reflection each day. My hope is that I can embody more of this so that I, too, can live happily and healthfully and with strong personal connections well into my advanced years.