As we age, we tend to feel less and less energetic, preferring to stay home in front of the television or with a good book instead of heading out to spend time with friends. But what most people don’t realize is that it is really quite important to stay socially active in our old age.
In a scientific study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, it was found that older adults who had high or medium levels of engagement that increased over time developed cognitive and physical limitations more slowly than did those with low levels of engagement that decreased over time. Because of that, socially isolated seniors end up having to visit the doctor’s office much more often than their socially active peers.
Why exactly should seniors stay socially active?
So we have established that it is important for seniors to stay socially active, but why exactly is this the case? Well, staying socially active is perhaps just as important as staying physically active in order for seniors to enjoy good health. The following are some reasons why seniors should maintain at least a moderate level of social activity.
Reduced risk for mental health issues
Interacting with your peers on a constant basis helps to prevent a whole host of mental health issues. These can range from depression to poor cognitive function. Why, you may ask? When you stay socially active, your brain is constantly engaged, leading to the maintenance of a sharper mind and reducing the potential for faltering cognitive function. For example, your risk for Alzheimer’s disease will be lower as compared to a senior who is socially isolated.
The interaction also gives you a sense of belonging and helps you to stay connected to the world around you. This is a fantastic way to reduce stress levels and prevent depression. Conversely, if you are socially isolated, you will be at much higher risk of feeling lonely and hence developing depression.
Be more physically active
One excellent by-product of staying socially active is that it almost always correlates to being more physically active as compared to seniors who are socially isolated. This is because you will tend to get out of the house more instead of just staying home alone every day. Your immune system and nutrition levels will also be improved since socially engaged seniors tend to eat more when they are around others.
In fact, when you stay socially active, you will have lower blood pressure and potentially reduced risk for cardiovascular problems, some cancers, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. This reduced risk is a happy by-product of being physically active since socially engaged seniors tend to get higher levels of physical activity. It also helps that socially engaged older adults tend to be more motivated to maintain their health as compared to their less-engaged peers. Hence, you can see that maintaining a decent level of social activity is vital for seniors’ health and mental well-being.
Stable support system
Staying socially active also ensures that you have a stable support system. When you have peers who can understand what you are going through, it makes tough times much easier to get through. For example, you can help each other out by motivating each other to stay physically active.
Also, seniors who are socially active may have access to better health information than their less-engaged peers because they can share any health information they have with each other.
What are some ways for me to stay socially active?
Perhaps you want to stay socially active but are unsure about how where to start. Fret not, for there are plenty of ways for seniors to be socially engaged! For starters, you can stay in touch with friends and family. Try to plan regular visits or interactions, even if it is just a conversation over the phone or writing letters and emails.
One of the best ways to stay socially active is to join a gym. This allows you to engage with others socially and at the same time stay physically fit, killing two birds with one stone!
If you are looking to make new friends, you can consider visiting a senior center. They usually have a wide variety of activities, so you can be sure that you will be able to find something you are interested in. You will also be able to meet lots of new like-minded friends there and build up a stable support system. Similarly, you can join a hobby group or take a class and pick up some new skills.
For those who are looking to do something more meaningful, why not volunteer in your community? You can even help out at the pre-school your grandchildren are enrolled in. Interacting with young persons will keep your mind sharp and active. This will also help you to maintain healthy relationships with your family.
Staying socially active and maintaining your relationships are a crucial part of aging healthily. Stay vibrant and active! Aging doesn’t mean that your life has to slow down as well.