For many older adults, the opportunities for an active social life often decline along with their health and energy. As illness or mobility issues limit what they can do, their risk of isolation increases. Connecting with others who love us and share similar interests is important at any age, but for seniors, whose lifestyles may lessen their social opportunities, these connections are crucial to healthy physical and emotional well-being.
Dangers of Isolation
According to Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights in Prospect Heights, IL, social isolation can be dangerous for seniors’ health. “Isolation is more than just feeling lonely,” Reier says. “A lack of connection with others can lead to poor emotional health, high blood pressure and a decline in physical health. Studies show that older adults who suffer from depression and isolation have a higher mortality rate than those more satisfied with their lives and relationships, making social engagement just as important as other steps to maintain physical and emotional health.
Benefits of Social Engagement
More than combating the negative effects of isolation, an active social life allows seniors to experience an array of benefits that help to enhance their overall well-being. Key benefits include:
- Enhanced Mental Health
Isolation is one of the leading causes of depression in older adults. Loneliness can easily turn to feelings of worthlessness and despair. On the other hand, socializing can help older adults feel loved and needed as their lives are affirmed by the activities they do and by those with whom they interact. Being around other people, especially if you’re doing something fun or rewarding, helps us keep a healthy mental state with a positive outlook on life.
- Sense of Belonging
Enjoying the company of others who have similar personalities or interests helps us feel like we belong somewhere. For those who may have lost a spouse or a close friend, the need to belong may be more intense. Engaging with others can cultivate new friendships, and doing something meaningful together creates lasting bonds.
- Better Self-Esteem
Self-esteem can plummet for those who have trouble doing as much as they use to or are alone too often. The more people socialize or participate in activities with others, the more they benefit by feeling like they contribute to their community. Any kind of positive interaction with friends, family or neighbors can help us feel confident in ourselves and our abilities.
- Improved Physical Health
When we have good conversations or do things we love with others, our bodies take note and release health-promoting chemicals that boost the immune system to ward off illness and make us feel physically well. Also, socializing promotes an active lifestyle and better nutritional intake. Seniors who are isolated are more likely to skip meals, whereas those who are socially active often share meals with friends and family.
- Increased Cognitive Functioning
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, socializing is key to keeping the brain sharp as we age. Having an active social life encourages us to continue learning, observing and responding to the world around us. Conversation and activity are great for exercising the mind and can potentially lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
No matter what our age, we are more likely to keep ourselves well if we have people holding us accountable. Older adults are less likely to develop habits of declining self-care if they’re around others they care about. Socializing creates reasons to stay well and helps foster a positive state of mind.
- Purposeful Living
Staying social benefits seniors by helping them feel that their lives still have purpose. Having somewhere to go, something meaningful to do or people to see helps us get out of bed, excited to face the day. When we cultivate strong relationships with others, we gain a sense of fulfillment, and spending quality time with those we love reminds us that life is worthwhile.
A Proactive Approach to Social Engagement
The benefits seniors gain from staying socially active are clear; yet, it often requires some effort in order to enjoy them. Just like eating healthy and keeping physically fit, socializing doesn’t usually happen without a conscious effort.
In her article, “The Importance of Socializing at Senior Living Communities,” United Methodist Homes Vice President Elizabeth Bemis, MA, says, “Human nature leads us to crave fulfilling relationships with other people. As we age however, life circumstances may push us toward loneliness and isolation unless we take proactive steps to cultivate new relationships.”
Some of these proactive steps could include volunteering for local organizations, getting involved in a church group, going to a senior living community for programs, visiting friends or family, or finding a group that focuses on similar interests. No matter how we choose to socialize, research shows that the benefits nurturing relationships are well worth the effort.
A Community of Connection
If you or a loved one is suffering from an isolated lifestyle, the time to take action is now. Make a lunch date with a friend, find a senior center near you or consider making a change in your lifestyle. For many, moving to a senior living community is the best solution for fighting isolation.
“At Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, a lively community of residents and staff are always nearby and ready to live each day to the fullest,” shares Reier. “Our award-winning programming ensures that there’s always something fun to do and someone to do them with. Neighbors become fast friends here, as there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people who share similar interests.”
If you think making the move to a senior living community like Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is the right thing for you or a loved one, contact us today for more information about community lifestyles and benefits.
We Would Love to Hear from You!
If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also welcome you to share any caregiving insights or experiences in our comments section.
Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.
Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.
Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.
Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.
For more information, please call Diane at 847-243-6920.
Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.