As a boy growing up on a housing estate in England, Paul McCartney remembers checking in on and running errands for a little old lady who couldn’t get out. As the story goes, in later life, the memories of his visits to her flat became the inspiration for the Beatles song, Eleanor Rigby, with its ballad-like refrain, “all the lonely people…”.
The lyrics heard today are quite relevant with many older adults still finding themselves alone… isolated and disconnected for all sorts of reasons. And, like Paul as a child, there are still many kind souls willing to reach out or drop by, to brighten up a senior’s day. Infact, by ‘checking in’, you’ll perhaps be doing more than you realize.
A recent study done by university researchers and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that an informal, quick check with the people in our lives is one of the easiest and highest-impact actions that we can share.
Surprisingly, small things that connect us matter more than we might think. When asked about the results of making a brief call, sending a short email or crafting a quick text, both senders and receivers confirmed how meaningful it was. Infact, those who reached out consistently underestimated how much their small act of kindness meant to the recipient.
And interestingly, researchers found that the impact of the message increased when the check in was unexpected or surprising. Case in point, people we haven’t spoken to in a while or we aren’t as close to are even more grateful to hear from us!
Peggy Liu, the lead author of the University of Pittsburgh study, says, “We are fundamentally social beings, and enjoy connecting with others.” She also points out that initiating social contact, especially after a prolonged period of disconnect, can feel intimidating because we worry about how we might be received.
But Liu’s work reports that our trepidations may be unnecessary, as others are much more likely to appreciate being reached out to than we think.
Note to self… it might just be time to surprise and delight someone with a simple, unexpected check in!
You’ll be glad you did.