As we grow older, there are certain changes that begin to take place in our lives. Our minds, bodies, and lifestyles all undergo significant transformations.
Aging is a natural part of life. But as we age, it is important that we recognize these attendant changes, realize what they might mean for our physical and mental health, and make necessary adjustments in order to keep ourselves healthy and happy.
When we talk about aging, something that is sometimes overlooked or left out of the conversation is the importance of maintaining an active social life.
Proper social interaction is not always seen as a priority for older people. But in fact, meaningful socialization is one of the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. This is true for people of all ages, but especially so for older adults.
Socially active older adults enjoy a surprising number of health benefits – both physical and mental – which those who are socially isolated do not.
Read on to explore the benefits of socialization for older adults and the dangers social isolation can cause. We’ll also discuss some fun and simple ways those later in life can work more social activity into their daily lives.
Better Overall Health
As we get older, our immune systems become weaker. This is why seemingly harmless diseases, such as the flu, can sometimes prove fatal in older adults.
But did you know that social activity can actually help to improve the immune system? It may be surprising, but regular and positive socialization can help to reduce stress and boost immunity. Something very important for older adults.
Improved Cognitive Function
Older adults are at a greater risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. The prospect of a loved one developing one of these heartbreaking diseases is often a source of great stress for carers and relatives.
Although there is no cure or definitive way of preventing these conditions, it is now known that social engagement can help to reduce the risk of an older person developing them.
Reduced Risk of Loneliness and Depression
Anybody can develop a depressive disorder, but in older adults, they can be particularly crippling. Figures from the CDC reveal that around 7 million adults over the age of 65 suffer from depression every year.
Forming stable and meaningful social connections can help to combat loneliness and depression, which is only one of the many reasons socialization for seniors is so important.
A Longer and Fuller Life
In addition to the many enriching effects regular social interaction can have in the lives of older adults, studies have shown it can also help to extend their life span.
Researchers have found that a lack of social engagement can be as damaging to a person’s life span, if not more so, than alcoholism, obesity, or smoking.
This means an active social life will generally lead to not only a happier, more fulfilled life, but a longer life as well.
Help in Healing
Death is an inevitable and inextricable part of life. Unfortunately, it can happen that as we get older, we find ourselves dealing with loss and grief more and more frequently. This can take its toll on older people and potentially lead to depression.
Bereavement and death are unavoidable. But social engagement and having a support network in place can be one way to lessen feelings of loneliness during this time, and help with the healing process necessary to recover from such tragic times.
Better Fitness Levels
Without proper social engagement, elderly people run the risk of damaging both their mental and physical health. Social isolation usually goes hand in hand with a more sedentary lifestyle and not getting out in the world enough.
On the contrary, an active social life naturally means getting out, moving around, seeing people, and doing things. It is so important for older adults to keep a good level of physical activity, even if this just means a regular walk. This can help to combat conditions such as sarcopenia, or muscular atrophy.
Paths to a More Active Social Life
Sometimes, older people can find it difficult to throw themselves into social activities, especially if this is not something they are used to doing. If you or a loved one is finding it challenging to stay socially active, below are some ideas for things you might try.
- Join a local gym
- Start a movie or book club with friends
- Volunteer with a local community group
- Take a course to learn a new skill
- Continue your education
- Connect with friends or family through the use of technology
Our theater, private garden, exercise room, and restaurant all provide the perfect backdrop to embrace active aging and create long-lasting connections with like-minded people.
Be Sure They’re Getting Enough Social Interaction
Today there are countless wonderful opportunities for seniors to engage in social activities. Unfortunately, despite this, it is not always easy to ensure our loved ones are as socially active as they should be.
Time commitments, distance, or a lack of resources are only a few of the things that can prevent older people from being able to socialize.
At Maple Heights, we know the true value of social interaction. It’s something our staff and residents place great importance on.