As we get older, health conditions, mobility limitations or a lack of energy can keep us from being as socially active as we once were. A diminishing social life might happen gradually as close friends experience the same conditions and family members grow busy. We may not even notice how long it has been since we last spent time with a friend! Isolation has a number of physical and emotional health risks. Especially if you live by yourself, staying socially active is critical to enjoying a healthy lifestyle.
Socialization Takes a Proactive Approach
Just like eating healthy and staying physically fit, socialization often requires some effort. In her article, “The Importance of Socializing at Senior Living Communities,” United Methodist Homes Vice President Elizabeth Bemis, MA, says, “Human nature leads us to crave fulfilling relationships with other people. As we age, however, life circumstances may push us toward loneliness and isolation unless we take proactive steps to cultivate new relationships.”
A few ways seniors can socialize and nurture relationships include:
- Volunteering at local organizations or events
- Getting involved in a church group or neighborhood center
- Going to a senior living community for programs
- Visiting friends or family
- Joining a gym or club
- Finding (or starting) a group that focuses on similar interests (e.g., knitting, walking, baking, golfing)
No matter how you choose to socialize, research shows that the benefits of social interactions are well worth the effort.
Importance of Socialization
Experts in the senior living and health fields agree that those who keep ties or discover new social connections experience an overall better quality of life than those who remain isolated. Key benefits include:
Social isolation is one of the leading causes of depression in seniors. Loneliness can easily turn to feelings of worthlessness and despair. On the other hand, socialization can have the opposite effect – helping you feel loved and needed as your life is affirmed by the activities you do and by those with whom you interact.
Being around other people, especially if you’re doing something fun or rewarding, helps you keep a positive outlook on life. Socializing also boosts a healthy mental state by giving you a sense of belonging and increasing your self-esteem.
Improved Physical Health
When we have good conversations or do things we love with others, our bodies take note and release health-promoting chemicals that boost the immune system to ward off illness and simply make us feel physically well.
Also, socializing promotes an active lifestyle and better nutritional intake. Seniors who are socially isolated are more likely to skip meals, whereas socially active seniors are more likely to share meals with friends and family. Having other people around often also keeps us accountable for our health choices and appearance.
Increased Cognitive Functioning
According to Berkeley University of California, socialization is key to keeping the brain sharp as we age. Having an active social life encourages us to continue learning, observing and responding to the world around us. Conversation and activity are great for exercising the mind as we explore new ideas, help friends solve problems or think of witty jokes to tell.
As a result, keeping an active social life can potentially lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that close relationships and a large group of social contacts help to ward off cognitive diseases. Talking with and thinking about others helps to keep our memory and cognitive functioning strong as we age.
Make Connections for a Purposeful Life
Aside from the amazing health benefits of socialization, staying social benefits seniors the most by helping you feel that your life has purpose. Having somewhere to go, something meaningful to do and people to see helps us get out of bed, excited to get up and start the day. When we cultivate strong relationships with others, we gain a sense of fulfillment, and spending quality time with those we love reminds us why life is worthwhile.
An active social life is one of the important reasons many seniors choose to move to a senior living community. Even if (and especially when) they’re perfectly healthy, seniors enjoy the ease of community life and the accessibility of friends and neighbors to meet and spend time with. Communities take away the need to organize parties or travel in order to be social. Fun events are planned by the community staff and take place on site. Communities also provide relaxing dining venues, lounges, outdoor areas, game rooms and even movie theaters to enjoy with friends and family.
If you would like to know more about life at a senior living community, we can help you find the information you need to get started on your search.
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55Living is your resource for retirement lifestyles and care. Contact us today to learn how we can connect you to the region’s best senior living experiences. Call 866-846-6272.