Socializing brings health benefits

    Bowling leagues across the country are on the decline. But experts say socializing is healthy and may help you live longer. In South Philadelphia, bowling is still popular.

    Bowling leagues across the country are on the decline. But experts say socializing is healthy and may help you live longer. In South Philadelphia, bowling is still popular.



    Saint Monica Lanes in South Philadelphia is home to six different bowling leagues. The daytime one for senior citizens is especially popular and has 48 members, including a petite woman with glasses named Catherine Frankel.

    Ninety-three year old Catherine Frankel
    Ninety-three year old Catherine Frankel
    Frankel: I’ve been bowling a good while. I’m 93, you know. I try real hard. I like the people. They’re so all nice, you know. And I enjoy it.

    In this game, Catherine bowls a 159. Not bad for someone her age, and who can’t see out of her left eye. Her teammates cheer after she throws a spare.
    Frankel: I got that one. That son of a gun.
    In the next lane over from Catherine, 92-year old John Gallichio is attempting to knock down a lone-standing pin.
    Gallichio: Ha, ha, I missed it. Ha, ha!

    Gallichio: We have a lot of fun. That’s why I’m here- to have fun. I live by myself and take care of the house and do everything. Cook. Clean. Do everything. My wife passed away in 2001. Helen- she was a very good woman.

    Ninety-two year old John Gallichio
    Ninety-two year old John Gallichio
    Most people in the league are in their 70s and 80s. In between frames, many of these longtime bowlers sip coffee and munch on sweets. 80-year old Joe Ferrante loves the weekly bowling league.
    Ferrante: All my friends. All the people I’ve known for years. We talk about our families and how they’re doing, and our grandkids.
    Turns out that this type of chit-chat can actually add some years to older people’s lives. Kathryn Jedrziewski is the deputy director for the Institute on Aging at the University of Pennsylvania. 
    Jedrziewski: Having a social network and being engaged socially with family and friends really can lead to not only improved cognitive health, improved physical health. People live longer if they’re more social. We’ve seen in the research that if you’re isolated and your social networks are few that you tend to die earlier. So it really has a tremendous benefit.

    But it’s unclear whether future generations will join bowling leagues as they get older. Sociologist Rebecca Adams from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro says the nature of how we socialize is changing.

    Adams: Everybody has probably seen the Cheers television show where everyone knows your name. Well, those kinds of places become very important to friendship formation. I have noticed that has been replaced somewhat by the various websites and chat rooms and blogs. So the question is whether people will continue to need to see each other face-to-face in order to form friendships.

    Adams says traditional tight-knit areas like South Philadelphia are perfect examples.

    Adams: The continued existence of neighborhood bowling leagues and the kind of activities that bring people together close to home- a lot of that will just depend on what happens to neighborhoods.  And as long as there are stable neighborhoods where people live in them for large portions of their lives, you will probably see those kinds of activities continue.

    Most of the bowlers in the senior citizen league at Saint Monica Lanes have spent their whole lives in South Philadelphia, and love socializing face-to-face. But with more interactions happening online, it’s unclear if their grandchildren will do the same or even join a bowling league. Virtual video games have now made it possible to go bowling without ever having to leave home.

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