It’s a fact of life that you’re more prone to social losses as you age. Friends and family die or move away. You’re unable to participate in activities you once enjoyed. Health issues may force you to stay home more, which puts you at higher risk of becoming isolated.
It’s also a fact that socializing is good for us in many ways—and perhaps even more so as we age. Part of leading a happy, fulfilled life is spending time with family, friends and like-minded people. Here’s a look at how socializing helps keep you healthy as you enter your senior years, as well as the effects of social isolation.
1. Better aging
Studies have shown that older adults with more active social lives are less apt to become disabled either physically or mentally. In turn, they’re better able to take care of themselves and to live independently longer than their less social peers.
Social activity, like physical exercise, is directly related to overall motor function. Additionally, staying socially connected triggers changes in the brain that protect against mental decline and influence physical processes such as immunity and mobilizing the body’s defenses against disease.
2. Improved mental health
Increased isolation can lead to a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. The National Institute on Aging links an active social lifestyle with a greater ability to deal with loss, fewer instances of depression, and a healthier, longer life due to reduced stress and anxiety.
3. A buffer against loneliness
Loneliness is always on the list of social isolation effects. And a 2012 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry showed that consistently lonely seniors were 64 percent more likely to develop dementia. There are a number of ways for an older adult to reduce loneliness: from scheduling regular visits with friends and family to going for more walks and engaging with neighbors. If the senior in question is part of your family, or you’re caring for him or her, there are some important things you can do to make sure they stay socially engaged:
*Spend more time with them
*Provide transportation to their church, a senior center, or another social environment
*Help them find and use technology that makes it easier for them to socialize, such as email, video phone calls or social networks
4. Lower blood pressure
Social isolation effects, as already mentioned, can have a negative effect on a senior’s physical health. One study showed that socially active seniors may have lower blood pressure than those who aren’t as socially engaged. Plus, being around others who encourage healthy eating habits and regular exercise can have an overall positive impact on your health.
5. Better sleep
Research suggests that there’s a connection between social engagement and getting longer, higher quality sleep—which has numerous health benefits. A good night’s rest leaves you with a clear, alert brain that helps with memory, focus, and learning—all factors that can boost a senior’s health and help them remain independent.