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Why Focus On Your Social Life As You Age? 4 Ways to Stay More Social, and 6 Benefits

Diverse group of happy senior friends talking and having lunch together

No matter what your age, you’d probably like to live longer. Here’s one simple yet helpful checklist to help:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat lots of fruits and veggies.
  • Get eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Make friends and stay socially engaged.

If that last one threw you a little bit, it shouldn’t — research has consistently found that the quality and quantity of people’s social relationships have been linked to mental health and longevity. And that’s especially true in terms of the importance of socialization for seniors.A 2019 CNN article mentioned a review of studies that found people who are isolated face a 50% greater risk of premature death than those who have stronger social connections. And recent studies by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have suggested social isolation carries a risk of mortality that’s similar to that of other major risk factors like smoking.

Four benefits of seniors staying social

Clearly, social isolation can negatively affect seniors’ physical and mental health. But instead of dwelling on the negative effects, let’s look at what positive things can result when seniors focus on socialization.

1. Improved mental health. Socialization combats feelings of depression and anxiety, and allows people to feel recognized, valued and loved. When you spend time with others, you not only avoid isolation — your emotional outlook actually improves.

2. Increased mobility. People who have more socialization opportunities are usually more mobile, because they have greater motivation to get out of the house and enjoy the people and places in their community. Meeting friends for a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, taking afternoon walks or going shopping all add movement to your daily routine, which strengthens muscles, stretches your joints and improves balance and mobility.

3. Improved physical health. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says senior isolation and loneliness act as fertilizer for other diseases, increasing risk of premature death from all causes, including cancer and heart disease, at a risk level that may rival those of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.

4. Reduced dementia risk. Some studies show senior isolation and loneliness increase dementia risk by 50%. And a study at University College London found seniors who interacted with friends regularly were 12% less likely to develop dementia than those whose friendly interactions were more sporadic.

Those are four remarkable benefits of socialization for seniors. Now, what can you introduce into your daily life and routine to improve your social life?

Six ways to become more social

1. Volunteer. Your skills are needed by so many volunteer organizations. Put your time, talents and experience to work for others by volunteering. Every nonprofit group needs experienced volunteers. Even if you don’t have a particular skill, many organizations are happy to train you.

2. Take a class to learn something new. Many community colleges and universities offer older residents the chance to audit college classes. Look into enrolling, either in person or online.

3. Travel with a senior group. Seeing other parts of the country — or other countries entirely — expands your worldview and improves your sense of self. And many older adults feel safer traveling as a group, which has the added benefit of giving you opportunities to make new friends.

4. Adopt a pet. Dogs can encourage older adults to get outside for regular walks and engage in conversation with other dog owners. And studies show owning cats, fish and other pets can reduce stress and anxiety, and lower blood pressure.

5. Find a new hobby, or take up an old interest. If you’ve always enjoyed wood carving, look for a woodworking club in your area. Or, if you’ve always been an avid reader, reach out to your local library for a book club to join, or volunteer to read books to children after school.

6. Consider moving to a senior living community. Senior living communities are designed to provide independent older adults with activities, events and opportunities that increase their social interactions and enrich their lives. Many communities also provide a continuum of care on the same independent living campus to care for seniors at every stage of life.

Discover The Village of Gleannloch Farms

If you’re wondering whether a senior living community might be a great solution to keep you socially connected, it’s easy to learn more. Contact us to learn how our welcoming, socially vibrant environment makes a positive difference in the residents who call our community home.