Humans are social animals. Unlike blue whales and polar bears, human beings need the presence of other humans to feel happy, healthy, and fulfilled. This is true for people of all ages, but being social is especially important for seniors. Socialization in seniors has a variety of mental, physical, and emotional benefits that are necessary to living a long, healthy life. Read on to learn more about the ways in which social connections can benefit your loved one, as well as how you can help them become more social.
According to a study by Bryan D. James et. al. for the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, called “Late-Life Social Activity and Cognitive Decline in Old Age,” of 1,138 seniors studied over a 12-year period, those who were frequently socially active experienced a 70% decrease in overall cognitive decline. Social activity benefits people by engaging them cognitively, exercising their brain through healthy discussions and by asking them to recall past events. It also helps learn new things and grow their world view, and learning is an excellent way to exercise our brains.
There are also a number of ways that socialization can improve physical health in seniors. For one thing, seniors who are more social have less stress, whether because they have people to discuss issues with or by simply knowing they have a support system should they need it. And stress can be a major contributor to cardiovascular and immune system issues. In addition, socialization often leads to more physical activity, which can have a profound effect on physical well-being. Physical well-being, in turn, can help seniors feel more confident and less worried about issues such as falling, leading to more socialization and even greater physical health.
Loneliness and isolation in older adults can lead to depression. However, according to HelpGuide.org, many seniors suffering from depression don’t report feeling “sad.” Instead, they experience symptoms like a lack of energy and low motivation – symptoms that can lead not only to less physical activity but can also limit their efforts to be social, causing a continuation loop leading to further depression. With more socialization, all of this can be reversed. Seniors feel less isolated, less lonely, and more fulfilled. In addition, being more social can reduce anxiety, helping seniors seek out new experiences and grow their social circles.
Helping Your Loved One Reap the Benefits
To help your loved one increase their level of socialization, start by scheduling a visit with their health care provider. Not only can this help rule out other contributing factors such as underlying health problems or dementia, your loved one may have a vitamin deficiency or may even benefit from an antidepressant. Next, find ways to help your loved one become more socially engaged. This may be as easy as scheduling a weekly phone call with them or encouraging them to sign up for activities at a community center. Attending regular church services can also be a great way for seniors to find like-minded people to connect with. You and your loved one should also consider a move to a senior living community. Many senior communities offer a variety of daily social activities for residents to take part in.
To learn more about the social activities and events at Senior Living Management communities, contact the community nearest you. For more tips on helping your loved one stay healthy, happy, and safe, visit the Senior Living Management blog.