Frigid temperatures mean I’ve been spending a lot of time inside lately. During one of my most recent “couch-a-thons”, I caught an episode of the show Nature on PBS. This week’s superstars were the Snow Monkeys in the Shiga Highlands of Japan. I watched as they sat, stoic and still, in a hot spring with icicles clinging to every inch of fur. The camera then followed them up into the tree tops, clinging on and attempting to brace themselves against the white blasts of winter. You rarely saw one of them sitting alone.

I listened as the narrator (soft-spoken Liam Neeson) described the brutal winters in the Japanese Alps. “Snow Monkeys,” he said, “have learned to keep friends and family close. It is truly a matter of survival. Without the warmth and companionship of others, the bitter cold sinks into their bones.”

I stopped, wrote down those words and began to think about human nature.

We too need to rely on family and friends for our own survival. Each phase of our lives brings on a new set of challenges and a new year doesn’t automatically reset them, especially as we age.

With winter comes solitude and stillness. For so many of us, the absolute quiet of a gentle snowfall serves as a respite from the usual hectic pace of life. For seniors, who are many times no longer able to easily navigate the world, the same snowy moment means further isolation and loneliness. With a shrinking social safety net, it is up to us to embrace and support our elderly neighbors and friends. And sometimes all it takes is hunkering down…together.

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