Having a tight group of friends is key to staying healthy in body, mind, and spirit. For older adults, it can be all too easy to become isolated, but social connections can have huge dividends that pay off in longer, happier, and more fulfilling lives. Here are a few of the benefits older adults can gain from staying social as they age.
Peer pressure can be a good thing! Hear us out… Being part of a social group can help older adults come together and live their best lives fully. Staying connected is a crucial part of maintaining mental, physical, and emotional health, and there are many win-wins to getting out and spending time with your closest friends.
Whether you and your pals like to go out shopping, or maybe prefer to grab a beer or catch a movie – together is always better! If exercise is more your thing, there are group sports such as pickleball or golf where the social and health benefits are considerable.
A study1 of stressed-out medical students outlined in the Medical News Today article, “Getting fit with friends may boost life quality,” notes that while regular exercise is known to provide many health benefits, exercising in a group showed a “statistically significant decrease in perceived stress and an increase in physical, mental, and emotional QOL (quality of life) compared with exercising regularly on one’s own or not engaging in regular exercise.”
Although the jury is still out, research has shown a lower risk of dementia in older adults who maintain higher levels of socialization. According to the verywellhealth.com article, “Does Social Interaction Prevent Dementia?” the evidence is piling up that indeed socialization can be a positive factor in keeping dementia at bay. Also interesting, the article notes that it’s not the size of a social network that’s important as much as the quality of the relationships. This includes “satisfaction, support, and reciprocity (give and take) of the relationships that are the important factors in reducing the risk” of dementia.
The article also points out that even older adults who already have mild cognitive impairment may be able to stop the decline and even improve if they actively take part in social activities like attending worship services, getting together with friends and family, and even volunteering.
Stroke and heart disease are among the most common health threats for older adults as they age. At the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness, experts looked at contributing factors; in the article, “Keeping the Heart Beating: Social Isolation and Cardiovascular Health,” they revealed the connections found in research. In one study2 almost 22 years ago, a link was found between heart disease and loneliness making socially isolated older adults more susceptible. In 2006, another study3 of cardiovascular health in cross-cultural adults over 60 found that “social support and connectedness was found to be the strongest and most consistent predictor of disease outcomes.”
In older adults, mental health often revolves around dementia and related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. But older adults can also become depressed, which can bring on physical health problems like strokes, diabetes, and heart disease. Since depression is often related to a lack of well-being, and poor socialization is one of the factors known to greatly influence well-being, staying socially connected is key.
Having a loving and supporting family and/or group of friends to share with can help older adults retain and build their sense of well-being. It will help them feel they are more productive with plenty to give others, that they have value, and that they are loved and respected. More about well-being and depression can be found in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s blog, “Well-Being Concepts.”
Another positive aspect of socialization is that older adults who regularly socialize may also in return take better care of themselves. Older adults who are meeting friends are more likely to want to spruce themselves up and pay greater attention to personal hygiene than those who are socially isolated. They may also include meals in their social activities, which helps to ensure they are getting the nutrition they need. And just getting out and visiting is exercise in itself. There really is no downside to healthy socialization for older adults!
Whether you’re looking for Independent Living, Assisted Living, or Memory Care services, you’ll want to find a senior living community that offers an approach to socialization that fits your needs. To learn more about Thrive Senior Living, please contact us today!
1 Effects of Group Fitness Classes on Stress and Quality of Life of Medical Students, Dayna M. Yorks, Christopher A. Frothingham and Mark D. Schuenke, https://doi.org/10.7556/jaoa.2017.140. Accessed 7 July 2021.
2 Sorkin, Dara, Karen S. Rook, and John L. Lu. “Loneliness, Lack of Emotional Support, Lack of Companionship, and the Likelihood of Having a Heart Condition in an Elderly Sample.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 24.4 (2002): 290-298. Print.
3 Tomaka, Joe, Sharon Thompson, and Rebecca Palacios. “The Relation of Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Social Support to Disease Outcomes Among the Elderly.” Journal of Aging and Health. 18.3 (2006): 359-384. Print.