Residents of the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC) found their fit during Active Aging Week 2023, an annual celebration that connects residents and community members with new tools and insights to help them grow and expand their physical, social and intellectual capacities.

“I was using muscles I had never used before and I got up and I didn’t have any pain at all this morning,” said Park Gables resident Joyce Brunk about her chance to use the Wellness Center’s new Jetti Poles. “That just made me feel like I can reach out and stretch out and try new things,” she said to a local reporter.

One of the week’s events, “Flex Your Social Muscle,” was designed to help attendees feel less alone in the world. At a time when loneliness has been declared an epidemic, James Madison University professors Natalie Kerr, Ph.D., and Jaime Kurtz, Ph.D., shared advice and research-backed strategies with attendees.

Natalie and Jaime discussed the “liking gap,” a bias we hold against ourselves that leads us to underestimate how much others like us. The pair advised that we expect the best when making connections. They also implored the audience to broaden their concept of connection by stepping out into nature or bringing nature into their environment. This way, people can feel connected even when they are physically alone. They discussed vulnerability. Having deep conversations that are personal and go beyond the surface can serve to nurture relationships you already have.

These are the 10 ways Natalie and Jaime offered to beat loneliness.

1. Talk to people.
2. Put yourself out there.
3. Expect the best.
4. Perform Random Acts of Kindness.
5. Express gratitude.
6. Offer social support.
7. Have deeper conversations.
8. Feel connected even when alone.
9. Experience more “awe.”
10. Power down! Put away your electronic devices to make real-world connections with people.

At VMRC, we connect residents and the public through cultural, intellectual and physical activities every day — not just during Active Aging Week. You are always welcome to experience our community through volunteerism, philanthropy, dining and our art shows in Park Gables Gallery.

If you want to join VMRC as a resident, make a new friend now! We can connect you to a current resident through our VMRC Resident Ambassador Program. You can become a pen pal, talk by phone, or speak face-to-face with a member of our community.

To make important connections, reach out to Anna Carson at 540-564-6532. See images from this year’s Active Aging Week activities below.