When you think about senior health what often comes to mind is how you or your loved one can eat better or get more exercise. But you may not realize that research has found maintaining social connections as you age is important to senior health as well. The question is: how exactly do you stay connected at a time in life when you may have less opportunities to socialize? We can help with these tips on making new connections and maintaining your current ones.
Social Connection and Senior Health
So, what makes social connection such a big deal for senior health? According to the National Institute on Aging, socially connected seniors have a lower risk for Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease as well as some forms of cancer and even a lower death rate along with lower rates of anxiety and depression than those who don’t maintain social connections.
More than just being less social than at other points in your life, isolation is a real concern for seniors. In fact, isolation affects nearly 1 in 5 seniors according to AARP. And it’s much different than loneliness which the AARP Foundation defines as the feeling or perception of being alone. However, isolation is actually being psychologically and/or physically detached from support groups of family, friends and community. Living alone is one of the risk factors for isolation.
In fact, Pew Research Center reports that seniors who live by themselves, on average, spend about 10 and a half hours alone each day. But even those who live with someone, other than a spouse, still have an average of seven and a half hours of alone time each day.
Ways to Stay Connected
Now that you know why staying connected socially is so important to senior health, keep in mind it’s not necessarily the quantity of the connections you have, but rather the quality. That’s an important distinction because we know this is still a time in life in which maintaining and creating new connections can be harder. Friends may have moved away, you may have mobility issues which make it hard to get out or lack of transportation may keep you home more. Regardless of the reason, it is still possible to stay socially connected with these tips:
1. Turn to Technology – Thanks to the pandemic we’ve all become more tech-savvy and the silver lining is that we’ve seen firsthand how easy it can be to stay connected to friends and family virtually using FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or even through social media. You are always welcome to engage with us here at Friendship -- like and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin!
2. Branch Out – We all find comfort in our daily routine, but if your day-to-day doesn’t involve much socialization, try adding in something new like joining a club, taking a class or finding a new hobby. You could also simply consider how to be more social within your current routine like heading to the dog park instead of letting your pup romp in the backyard or instead of exercising alone, ask some neighbors if they’d like to start a walking group.
3. Give Back – Volunteering is not only a great way to give back, it also offers an opportunity to meet people with similar interests. Look into causes that are near to your heart, see where your friends and family may already volunteer or connect with volunteer matching services like VolunteerMatch or SeniorCorps to get started. Our Activities Coordinator in the Residents' Center can also help you get connected; this individual can be reached at 540.777.4612.
4. Consider Senior Living – You may find this surprising, but social connection is one of the biggest benefits of senior living. While you can certainly keep connected on your own, quite frankly senior living makes it easier and more convenient as a dedicated team ensures there’s always a full calendar of fun and engaging options available right outside your door. With choices that range from educational and enrichment programs to activities and outings; you have plenty of opportunities to make new friends and host friends and family who are always welcome in our communities.
For more information, download our Guide to Aging Gracefully or call us today to schedule a tour at 540.385.8720.