There has never been more attention and focus on socialization and loneliness. Every age group is affected by social isolation and loneliness, and can benefit from increased socialization. The impact is especially potent; however, when considering socialization and health impact for older adults.
Why socialization can help lead to healthy seniors
Humans are inherently social creatures. We crave the company of other humans! Research shows that over 40% of older adults are suffering from loneliness (and its health impacts). Losing a spouse, friends passing away, living alone, having kids and family out of state and more can all contribute to increased loneliness among seniors.
That’s where socialization can serve as a sort of medicine (although to be clear, it is NOT a substitute for any sort of medical treatment or medication!), adding significant health benefits for seniors.
Here are just a few ways socialization improves the health of older adults:
Improved heart health
Getting out and spending time with people is good for your heart! Older adults with limited socialization are more likely to suffer from cardiac ailments like hypertension, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.
Better mental and emotional health
Depression and anxiety rates are significant among lonely older adults. And those ailments themselves lead to increased negative health outcomes! Socialization brightens our moods and can alleviate all of the mental and physical burdens that come along with mental and emotional health.
This also includes improved relationships with our friends and loved ones, since anxiety and depression can sometimes cause individuals to regress further and actually strain intact relationships.
Better cognitive function
An estimated 6.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. And unfortunately, loneliness increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia for seniors.
Thankfully, socialization can play a major role in improving cognitive function and reducing the risk of developing dementia in seniors. When socialization includes activities like card games, crossword puzzles, trivia, and learning new things, the cognitive benefits are magnified!
How to improve socialization in older adults
It can be hard for seniors to increase socialization naturally. As noted above, many seniors live alone and have family or friends who live out of state. Here are some ideas to help increase socialization and reap the health benefits associated with socialization for older adults:
Many seniors find joy and a sense of purpose in volunteering. And with many nonprofits and organizations resuming activities, there is an increased number of opportunities available in many areas. Animal shelters, hospitals, and more are looking for volunteers.
Seniors will get an opportunity to make a difference, meet new people, and in the case of animal shelters, play with animals during the day – who wouldn’t want to do that?! The health benefits are icing on the cake.
Schedule get-togethers in advance
Sometimes the easiest way to ensure socialization is to simply put it on the calendar. Otherwise, it’s too easy to fall into old habits. For many seniors, that can include lonely days and nights watching TV, reading books (both of which are perfectly fine activities, but not when they take up a large portion of the day, every day), and spending time alone.
Encourage get-togethers with family and friends by scheduling coffee dates, board game nights, and more. That way, your senior loved ones can also look forward to those events in the days leading up to them!
Consider senior living communities
Living in a house or traditional apartment makes it easier to become lonely and isolated. But, moving into a senior living opportunity brings socialization to your doorstep! Neighbors and friends are a few steps away. Activities fill the calendar and are easy to join ahead of time or spur-of-the-moment.
Meal times in our dining room here at Winnwood, for example, are enjoyed in our lavish dining room – eat with your friends or make new ones! Outings to museums and galleries provide new opportunities to get out into the community. Watching movies in our theater, practicing your putts, even reading a book doesn’t have to be solitary in our library and lounges!
Senior living offers so much opportunity to increase socialization and wellness. And this list is just the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about life at Winnwood Retirement Community, contact us today.