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Valentine’s Day a reminder that love conquers all

Who was St. Valentine exactly? Well, it’s complicated, but now is an ideal time to look back with his namesake holiday upon us. Accounts suggest that St. Valentine helped Christian couples wed in medieval times. An earlier version of the story states that St. Valentine was a martyr who was honored by Pope Gelasius I in the 5th century. In any event, St. Valentine appears to be someone who believed in caring for others.

The upcoming holiday that’s become synonymous with love and romance has importance that stretches beyond greeting cards and boxes of candy. For older adults, it may be a time to look at the benefits of maintaining loving relationships, whether with spouses, siblings, children or grandchildren. Having love in one’s life offers improved mental health, reduced loneliness and greater physical well-being. Monarch Landing offers a range of activities that promote social engagement and offer stimulating emotional and intellectual connections for residents. Among resident lovebirds are longtime Monarch Landing couple Greg and Jane Zimmerman, who enjoy many active pursuits on- and off-campus, and avid travelers David and Jean Curtis.

AARP explained that close relationships can promote brain health, prevent depression and result in improved physical health and longevity. Seniors in active relationship have improved mental acuity, too, with a much slower rate of decline versus those who are isolated. Good friendships can lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system and improve sleep, too.

Many seniors, including those who are divorced or who’ve lost a spouse, exemplify the idea that you’re never too old to meet someone new. Seniors in relationships are typically happier than the general population. One of the biggest reasons is that seniors have more time to dedicate to their significant other. Once they are “empty-nesters,” older adults can spend more of their day focusing on their spouse rather than the worries of careers, raising children and managing relationships. Another benefit is highly practical: Having someone else available to help perform household tasks helps share the workload and ease the burden of daily chores.

And for those without a partner, older adults benefit from having a circle of friends—one study suggests seniors with many friendships experience better longevity versus those without. Another research project reports that spending time with grandchildren, even when providing them with care, results in a lower risk of developing cognitive disorders. Simple acts of kindness and compassion to others—another expression of love—lowers anxiety and makes people happier.

From the mental to the physical, love offers benefits for most anyone at any stage in life. It was Huey Lewis & The News who sang “The Power of Love,” and the potent lyrics from that 1980s classic song still ring true today.