Social interaction with others is an important human need and unfortunately, as we age, the opportunities for social engagement may diminish due to various reasons including separation, death of a loved one, or mobility challenges. Isolated seniors, especially, may feel alienated as a result of fewer meaningful interactions with others. This kind of prolonged isolation not only wears on a person’s emotions, it can also affect physiological functions such as the immune system. Social engagement for seniors is important for many reasons – join us as we explore the complexities of social engagement for aging adults and ways we can prevent isolation for ourselves and our loved ones.
The Dangers of Isolation
As seniors age, they are more prone to losing important people in their social circle like spouses, family members, and friends as they pass away. The smaller our social circles become, the less opportunity we have to interact with others in a meaningful and fulfilling way. Unfortunately, for some seniors, these circles become so small they become isolated from this type of interaction which can increase the risk of chronic diseases.
In fact, research has shown that seniors who are not socially engaged are at higher risk of depression and earlier death. The data is clear, inability to maintain and keep positive relationships that offer meaningful interaction not only affects our emotional health but our physical health as well. This is especially true for the senior population as our bodies are already working to maintain healthy function despite the other physiological and emotional effects of aging.
Socializing can help us feel loved and important – each activity we engage in with other people further affirms our life’s purpose. Connecting with others on something we enjoy and are passionate about can help maintain a healthy mental state by creating positive outlets for our emotions which can prevent us from turning inward.
Improved Cognitive Function
Socializing is key to keeping the brain sharp as we age. An active and engaged lifestyle allows us to learn, observe, and participate in new activities and hobbies that challenge us in new ways. This kind of mental engagement helps to improve long-term memory and cognitive function overall.
The act of simply being around others can encourage you to care for yourself and avoid engaging in harmful health habits. Social engagement helps us to realize that we are all accountable to our friends and family in seemingly personal matters like our health because our health and happiness affect their wellbeing as well.
An engaged lifestyle promotes nutritional and immune well-being. People are less likely to skip meals when in the company of others and the various activities we engage in, like shopping, cooking, and maintaining hobbies are all examples of small forms of exercise that will help keep our circulatory and immune system in good shape.
Active social lives ensure that we have somewhere to go and something to do. Having a social circle to schedule activities with helps us to engage each day with a positive and purposeful mind.
Tips for Staying Socially Active
There are social activities that can contribute to your physical and emotional well-being, they include:
Joining a Community or Club
It’s easy to turn the activities that you enjoy into a social event! Are you an avid reader? Join your local book club! Whether you are interested in gardening or woodwork, there are sure to be local clubs around these hobbies that allow you to meet people and participate in group activities. If you can’t find a group that meets your interests, make one! You are more likely to cultivate friendships and new relationships when you join a community of like-minded people.
Participating in a cause you believe in is another great avenue for social interaction. Communities often have special events for various local volunteer groups. Volunteering for these groups will not only help you contribute to a good cause, it will also help to prevent isolation and loneliness.
Regular Social Visits
Visit your friends and family as often as possible, and when you make new friends, stay in touch with them to nurture those relationships. Plan activities together and take advantage of having a support group of family and friends that can enhance your overall health.
Connecting Through Technology
There are times when family members cannot visit due to distance or hectic personal or work schedules. You don’t need to wait until their next visit to connect; you can use technology to reach out and connect instantly! The more physically engaging your communication medium, the better. Look into video chatting and social media to help you stay engaged with your friends and family!
While you certainly don’t have to be social butterfly, there are a large number of social activities out there that you will likely find both enjoyable and comfortable.
To fend off loneliness, encourage your loved one and yourself to join communities and participate in group activities. Companion care services like those AmeriCare offers are a great option to help supplement social interaction for those whose friends and family are unable to visit consistently. AmeriCare caregivers can even drive you or your loved one to activities and events, or simply be there to provide companionship to avoid isolation.