In an effort to combat loneliness that can affect people of all ages during the holidays, Bend Parks and Recreation invites people to free events.
The events are called “Holiday Hangouts.”
They feature cookies and crafts and therapy dogs… enough to cheer up anybody.
“This is our Holiday Hangout which we are doing it for the first time. We are doing it twice, today and next Thursday from 12:30-2 p.m.,” said Leigh Lehman, Enrichment Supervisor at the Bend Senior Center, adjacent to the Larkspur Community Center.
“It’s for seniors in our community. Those who are active here and those who might be at home and not have a lot to do for the holidays. We want them to come out and engage with us and be social and have some fun. Get out of their homes and socialize.”
According to the National Council on Aging, feelings of loneliness and isolation affect life expectancy equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
The antidote? Make new friends, whether they be human or canine.
“The dogs just bring people together. People will talk with dogs. They’ll cuddle with dogs. They are happy with dogs and it brings down their blood pressure and they get calmer,” said Sue Doezal, with Compassionate K9s of Central Oregon. “It just feels good petting a dog.”
Snuggling with certified therapy dogs Gunnar and Jameson warmed up participants for more activities including cookie decorating, holiday crafts and live music.
“There’s a lot of loneliness at all ages but especially with adults who might not have family around, who might not have kids or adult kids in the house. They might be living on their own. Then you start to turn inward,” Lehman said.
She said action begets action.
The more you do. The more active you stay.
The Holiday Hangouts are another way Bend Park and Rec is trying to encourage seniors to remain active and engaged.
The next Holiday Hangout is Thursday, Dec. 21, from 12:30 to 2 pm at the Larkspur Community Center.