Staying social as we age is vital for our health and longevity. A person’s social network can very easily get smaller as we age—retiring from work, friends and family passing away and becoming less mobile are all factors that can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression among older adults. The National Council on Aging says that one in six seniors are at risk of isolation, and six in 10 women are at an even higher risk.
There is also a strong link between the isolation of aging and a person’s physical health. Studies have shown that isolation can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, depression and stroke. A study at Brigham Young University surveyed 70 other studies involving over 3 million people to see what trends on loneliness emerged. Their conclusion found that loneliness is a bigger health issue than obesity and has the same effect on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Isolation is also associated with a weakened immune system, cancer and increased risk for premature mortality. But don’t let this add to your stress! The good news is that staying social while we age can be enormously beneficial in preventing illness and depression among seniors.
The best way to prevent isolation is to stay involved in your community. Get out of the house and interact with others by volunteering at a local elementary school, taking an art class or using public transportation. Getting together with others for an exercise class, a show or a dip in the pool is a great way to meet new people in a relaxed setting. Interacting with new people helps bolster your network of those who can provide emotional support and keep you company as you get older.
Staying social has many benefits for preserving cognitive benefits as well. Playing a game, learning something new, sharing memories and having new experiences all help your mind stay sharp as you get older. Improving cognitive and motor skills in old age helps you maintain your confidence and independence, thereby decreasing the anxiety and depression associated with aging.
Staying social is very important for older adults as it can prevent isolation and improve your general well-being. One of the great aspects of assisted living is that it often forces older adults to become more social. When a family checks out assisted living homes for their loved ones, they should make social interaction a top priority. Make sure their loved one is not locked in their room all day with the TV on. They should visit the home several times at different parts of the day to see what kind of social interaction goes on.