Social interaction can play a significant role in overall health as people age. Spending time with other people can improve quality of life while offering the support we need. Strong friendships provide compassion, trust and companionship in later years.
Here are a few of the benefits of staying engaged as you age.
Maintaining “Social Capital”
“Social Capital” refers to personal connections that build trust and support. Those who retire may see a significant decline in social capital due to reduced contact with work colleagues, loved ones moving away or deaths of friends and family. The loss of a social network can have a direct impact on mental and physical health.
Feelings of loneliness and depression may become more frequent. The longer those feelings continue the less likely a person will feel they have the ability to change their situation.
Regular, planned activities can help grow an individual’s social capital whether these take place at a local senior center or a senior living community.
Health Benefits of Staying Engaged
Humans are social creatures. By nature, we look for the support and affirmation from others. According to Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation, “There is no question that being socially isolated has proven to have negative health outcomes.”
She points to research showing prolonged loneliness and isolation can equal the health risks of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and that 26 percent of people have increased risk of death due to loneliness.
Beyond friendships, engaging in a hobby or volunteering can improve anxiety and depression and reduce the risk of some physical and mental health conditions.
Finding Sources of Social Support
Family members frequently provide social support for seniors, but that’s not always the case. For seniors who are widowed or live far from loved ones, finding other ways to socialize can be necessary.
As you get older, it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to meet people and develop relationships. Community groups like senior centers offer one source of friendships. As you age, a senior living community may be the best way to provide consistent support and socialization so you can continue to live fully.