The Importance of Socialization in Aging
Over the last year or so, just about everyone on the planet felt what it’s like to be isolated from friends and family. The impact was more than skin-deep. Social isolation and loneliness impacted both physical and mental health. It increased the risk of premature death, dementia, heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and suicide.
Numerous studies have shown the importance of socialization for seniors and how social isolation negatively impacts health. A Harvard study, for example, found that people who were socially active had less than half the memory decline of those who were socially isolated.
A study at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago found the rate of cognitive decline was 70% less in people with frequent social contact, compared to those who had little social contact with others.
And according to a study at Brigham Young University, lack of social connection is as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.
Clearly, maintaining relationships and getting plenty of social interaction plays an important role in a healthy life.
Health Benefits of Socialization for Seniors
There are more reasons for strengthening your social connections than catching up on the latest gossip over a cup of coffee. Here are some of the many benefits of socialization for seniors:
Older adults who are socially active handle stress better. This leads to important increases in cardiovascular health and an improved immune system.
High levels of socialization in seniors help increase longevity.
Higher Fitness Level
Being around people who encourage healthful habits, such as regular exercise or mindful eating, helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Reduced Risk of Depression
Increased social interaction can cheer you up and help rebuild self-esteem. Simply chatting with a friend can help you see your situation in a new light.
Improved Cognitive Function
Positive social interactions help keep you stimulated, mentally sharp and intellectually engaged — which, in turn, helps prevent cognitive decline.
Sense of Belonging
Isolation makes us feel disconnected. Social connections anchor our sense of place in the universe.
How to Cultivate a Healthy Social Life
For many older adults, staying connected and engaged isn’t as easy as it used to be. They’re not going into the office anymore. Their kids have their own busy lives or have moved away. And mobility problems, hearing loss, or poor vision make getting out difficult. Still, there are ways to overcome the obstacles and start enjoying a more active social life. Here are five ways to get you back in the game:
- Take walks in your neighborhood and say hello to people you meet.
- Meet friends for coffee or lunch.
- Volunteer. Socializing can be easier when you’re doing it to benefit others. (Check out VolunteerMatch or your county’s Aging and Human Services Department for opportunities in your area.)
- Join a book club, bridge club or sewing group. Look for hobbies and activities you think you’d enjoy.
- Move to a senior living community where you can meet new friends and share new experiences. You can participate in a wide variety of activities and programs — everything from aerobics and yoga to bridge and lifelong learning classes.
Fostering a Sense of Community is What We’re All About
At Laurel Circle, it’s easy to feel like you belong. Staff members treat you like family and neighbors quickly become good friends. We look out for each other and enjoy each other’s company. To learn more about this engaging lifestyle chock-full of opportunities to connect with others, visit our Community Life page.