Connecting with others who love us and share similar interests is beneficial at any stage of life, but for seniors who live alone or aren’t as active in their communities as they once were, these connections are key to maintaining healthy physical and emotional well-being.
Taking a Proactive Approach to Socializing
While social isolation goes beyond just loneliness, leading to poor emotional health, high blood pressure and a decline in physical health, studies show that fostering relationships and being socially active can greatly enhance one’s health and quality of life, as long as we put forth the effort to connect.
Just like eating healthy and keeping physically fit, socializing doesn’t usually happen on its own. In her article, “The Importance of Socializing at Senior Living Communities,” United Methodist Homes Vice President Elizabeth Bemis, MA, says, “Human nature leads us to crave fulfilling relationships with other people. As we age, however, life circumstances may push us toward loneliness and isolation unless we take proactive steps to cultivate new relationships.”
Some of these proactive steps could include volunteering for local organizations, getting involved in a church group, going to a senior living community for programs, visiting friends or family, or finding a group that focuses on similar interests. No matter how seniors choose to socialize, research shows that the benefits nurturing relationships are well worth the effort.
Benefits of Staying Socially Active
More than combating the negative effects of isolation, seniors who enjoy an active social life experience an array of benefits that help to enhance their overall well-being. Key benefits include:
- Enhanced Mental Health
Socialization can help older adults feel loved and needed as their lives are affirmed by the activities they do and by those with whom they interact. Being around other people, especially if you’re doing something fun or rewarding, helps us keep a positive outlook on life and a healthy mental state.
- Sense of Belonging
Enjoying the company of others who have similar personalities or interests helps us feel like we belong somewhere. For those who may have lost a spouse or a close friend, the need to belong may be more intense. Socializing with others can cultivate new friendships, and doing something meaningful together creates lasting bonds.
- Better Self-Esteem
The more seniors socialize or participate in activities with others, the more they benefit by feeling as though they actively participate in their community. Any kind of positive interaction with friends, family or neighbors can help us feel confident in ourselves and our abilities.
- Improved Physical Health
When we have good conversations or do things we love with others, our bodies take note and release health-promoting chemicals that boost the immune system to ward off illness and make us feel physically well. Also, socializing promotes an active lifestyle and better nutritional intake as we share meals with friends and family.
- Increased Cognitive Functioning
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, socialization is key to keeping the brain sharp as we age. Having an active social life encourages us to continue learning, observing and responding to the world around us. Conversation and activity are great for exercising the mind and can potentially lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
No matter what our age, we are more likely to keep ourselves well if we have people holding us accountable. Seniors are less likely to develop habits of declining self-care if they’re around others they love and respect. Socialization creates reasons to stay well and helps foster a positive state of mind.
- Purposeful Living
Staying social helps us feel like our lives have purpose. Having somewhere to go, something meaningful to do or people to see allows us to wake up each morning, excited to face the day. When we cultivate strong relationships with others, we gain a sense of fulfillment, and spending quality time with those we love reminds us that life is worthwhile.
If you would like to learn more about ways for you or a loved one to get involved in social activities, contact the senior living experts at The Commons senior living community in Woodland Hills, CA. They can offer valuable information, point you to helpful resources and let you know about social opportunities going on at their community.