No one has to tell you how beneficial it is to stay physically active as you get older. But have you given any thought to the benefits of social connections for seniors? Well, according to researchers, active seniors are much healthier, on many levels, than their peers who are isolated and socially inactive.
Why Is Social Health Important?
Research has revealed that seniors with busy social calendars and a network of friends and family enjoy five major health benefits:
- Slower rate of decline / decreased medical issues. The Center for Advancing Health reported on research findings that showed older adults with high or medium levels of social engagement that increased over time developed limitations more slowly than seniors with low levels of engagement that declined over the years. For example, according to The Boston Globe, a North Carolina sociologist said, “Lack of social connections in old age is equivalent to having diabetes, in terms of increasing (just) hypertension.”
- Maintain a more positive outlook on the present and the future. Seniors who are isolated and not engaged with others are more susceptible to depression.
- Sleep more soundly. Inadequate rest can lessen your ability to think clearly and sap your energy, among other things.
- Function at an optimal cognitive level. Research shows a potential reduction of the risk for Alzheimer’s and related diseases. According to Psychology Today online, socially healthy seniors typically perform better on tests of memory and cognitive abilities.
- Possess a more-robust immune system. Social engagement has been linked to a stronger immune system that can help seniors fight off minor ailments such as colds to major diseases such as cancer.
How to Become Socially Healthy
It’s easy to lose your sense of purpose while focusing on providing for your family, raising kids (maybe the grandkids, too) and/or managing a household. So, when you no longer have primary responsibility for those and other aspects of your life, it’s the perfect time to reestablish – or discover – your identity. Now’s a great time to:
- Work part time. This time, find a job you want to do that fits your schedule. Put your love of plants to good use at a florist shop or garden center, or teach aspiring musicians how to play their favorite instrument.
- Enroll in one or more classes. Learn something new or revisit something you once loved. Always wanted to earn an advanced, or additional, degree? Here’s your opportunity. Don’t waste it!
- Volunteer in your community or church. You can be anything from a docent at a museum to a prop maker for a local theater department.
- Mentor children, teens and/or young adults. Schools, churches and community centers are great places to connect with young people in need of direction, information, inspiration and wisdom.
- Hit the gym and take the exercise classes you once never had time to sign up for. And consider teaching a class for your fellow active older adults. Water aerobics and yoga, for example, appeal to many seniors. It’s never too late to get certified as an instructor.
Opportunities for Growth and Connectivity
Active senior communities are ideal settings for people open to making new acquaintances and engaging in all kinds of pursuits that they either put on hold over the years or are determined to try for the first time. Thanks to assisted living, seniors have an abundance of social wellness activities at their disposal.