CBC recently aired a panel discussion on loneliness, citing loneliness as a looming crisis despite living in an age of hyper-connectivity. Indeed, at any one time, 33 percent of us report being lonely. It seems we live in the illusion of being connected to one another via social media when what is needed is face-to-face contact. Indeed, face-to-face contact not only wards off loneliness, but research shows such contact also contributes to our longevity!
During the radio program, panel members discussed recent research done on a mountain-top community in Italy, called Campodimele. Dubbed Europe’s “village of eternal youth”, this community of 840 residents enjoy an average life expectancy for both men and women of 95 years, compared to an Italian average of 77.5 for men and 83.5 for women. The usual links to longevity such as good diet and regular exercise were duly noted, but it seems there is much more to the equation than that. A complementary factor, considered to be key to their health and vitality, is the regularity to which residents spend time with one another in community.
Panellists pondered these research findings, pointing out that while we are programmed to band together for survival, western cultures value individualism over communal living. Indeed, from a psychological point of view, a person might even be seen as dysfunctional when they depend on others “too much”. This largely western vantage point stands in contrast to findings of researchers seeking out the secrets to longevity. Connection with one another; or said differently, banding together in community is vital to our health and well-being.
It is in this context, that Excellence Seminars International is introducing our new MISSION!!! It is:
“To strengthen the fabric of good will that exists in the world through our commitment to lifelong learning and through fostering meaningful connection in community”.
I have shared our new mission with many people, and it resonates strongly for young and old alike; it also resonates for recent graduates as it does for those that have been involved in the Excellence Series for decades. Social media is wonderful addition to the repertoire of means to stay in touch. Ultimately, though, virtual communities are just that… virtual. A hug from another person cannot be replaced with “xo” at the end of a post any more that a happy face emoji communicates the warmth of a real smile. Meaningful connection can and does happen in a big way in the ESI community. It is for that reason that I genuinely believe that our courses and our community are even more relevant today than they were when I took them 26 years ago!
~ Pam Lewis, Director & Program Leader