The need for companionship, affection, and support does not diminish as we become older. In fact, seniors need a healthy social life more than anyone else. Unfortunately, socialization is not easy, especially with nearly 3 in 10 seniors in the US living alone.
While there’s nothing wrong with retaining your independence, socialization comes with its fair share of benefits and health risks. Read on to find out why seniors need to socialize, the risks of not doing so, and some strategies for avoiding isolation.
This article is part of my “Importance of Elders” series that features 50+ articles on keeping seniors and the elderly happy and healthy so that we can have them in our lives longer. See the entire series here.
Why is it Important for Seniors to Be Social?
Healthy relationships are important at any age, but for seniors, the necessity of sociability cannot be overstated. Social connections that are consistent help people stay mentally, physically, and emotionally fit. Of course, they also help our loved ones avoid the problems that come with solitude and make our lives feel more meaningful in general.
5 Worth While Benefits of Socialization
Here are some concrete ways that a fulfilling social life benefits the older folks in our lives:
1. Fostering an Optimistic Mindset
Loneliness and isolation, are some of the leading causes of despair and depression among older persons. That explains why most families choose to take their loved ones to assisted living centers or retirement homes. This way, they can be surrounded by residents and staff, which can be reassuring if you don’t live close by or can’t visit as often as you’d like.
2. Reduced Stress
Certain aspects of life, such as a mundane schedule, health issues, or concerns about family members, can cause you to become nervous and tense. This can even manifest itself as negative behaviors towards family members and loved ones. Socializing is however an excellent approach to relieve stress in one’s life. Socially active people find other things to think about, share their problems with their friends, and are generally optimistic.
The result? Better stress management! Seniors who are stressed should consider getting together with a friend and going shopping for the day! Seniors can also consider attending a community outing for a stress-relieving day of fun.
3. Accountability To Go The Extra Mile
At some time in our lives, we all require accountability from others. Social circles can serve as accountability partners for aging persons, ensuring that they continue to take care of themselves. It’s easy to fall into negative habits of neglecting self-care if we keep to ourselves. Socializing, on the other hand, provides us with reasons to practice self-care and put our health first.
4. Purposeful Living and an Increased Lifespan
It makes us feel like our lives have meaning when we have somewhere to go, something essential to do, and people to see. A vibrant social life might assist us in waking up with excitement and expectation for the day ahead. In turn, seniors with a high level of socializing live longer. Spending meaningful time with people we care about serves as a constant reminder that life is worth living.
5. Improved Physical Health
Seniors who participate in social activities are in better physical health than those who do not. They have lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, fewer aches and pains, and health issues connected with a lack of exercise because they are more active.
What Are the Cognitive Benefits of Senior Socialization?
Socialization can be extremely beneficial to a senior’s cognitive health. Consistent positive social contacts keep elders motivated, mentally alert, and intellectually engaged. Improvements in these cognitive domains, not unexpectedly, can aid in the prevention of general cognitive declines, such as memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and other kinds of dementia.
Socialization For Seniors: Risk Factors
When compared to the rest of the population in the US, seniors have a higher risk of feeling lonely and socially isolated.
Isolation among seniors is exacerbated by the following factors:
• Chronic health issues
• Being over the age of 80
• Scarce resources
• Limited contact with friends and family
Health Risks of Isolation of Seniors
Isolation has an impact on practically every element of a senior’s life. Isolation has a variety of negative impacts on mood and mental health, as well as physical degeneration. Lonely and isolated seniors have worse physical and mental health. Individuals with a limited social life are also more likely to experience the following health issues:
• Depression and anxiety
• Cardiac arrest
• Alzheimer’s disease (and other forms of dementia)
• Coronary artery disease (CAD)
5 Ways Seniors Can Cultivate a Healthy Social Life
Continued socialization does not arise naturally for many elderly persons. Many times, strategies, commitment, and diligence are necessary. Here’s what you need to do:
- Participate in voluntary work
- Consider relocating to a retirement community.
- Organize social activities on your own and invite seniors who may be isolated or lonely to participate.
- Use community resources such as elder centers and religious organizations to your advantage.
- Maintain strong ties with children and grandchildren.
Fostering a Socially-Active Community
Living a socially engaged life might be difficult for millions of older persons who live alone. Furthermore, distance can be a significant barrier to making meaningful connections and keeping active. As we care and look after our loved ones, we, therefore, have to go the extra mile of finding close-knit communities, socialization opportunities, and even fitness centers!