As people get older and circumstances change, their social lives can suffer. From the death of a spouse to family and friends moving on to new endeavors, a person may find him or herself suddenly socially isolated.
Eight percent of American seniors live in social isolation, and the situation can have a big impact on physical and mental health. Here are four things to know about the benefits of having an active social life and how to improve socialization.
Social Isolation Can Lead to Depression
Loneliness can lead to depression in older adults. People who are divorced or whose spouses have died may feel lonely and disconnected from other family members as well. Depression and loneliness can contribute to a lower quality of life. However, socializing with others and building new friendships can improve feelings of well-being and improve mood.
Socializing Can Benefit Physical Health
While socialization can improve mental health, it also has an effect on physical health. People who socialize with others and have a strong support system have been shown to live longer. Elderly people with a strong social network of friends and family may have a stronger immune system. This can help people fight off infections and improve overall health.
Cognitive Health Can Be Improved with Socialization
Social connections may help fight dementia and improve cognitive function. Researchers believe interacting with others can help people avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. People with large social networks of people to rely on and socialize with keep their brains active and focused, which helps cognitive function.
Look for New Ways to Socialize with Others
While socializing improves physical, mental, and cognitive health, it may be difficult to find new ways to spend time with other people. Look for opportunities to meet other people, such as visiting a senior center or volunteering with a group. If you are retired, get a part-time job that will offer opportunities to interact with new people. If you live far from family, consider moving closer. Moving into a retirement home may provide an avenue to form new friendships.
“Building new friendships can be difficult at any age, but some seniors who feel socially isolated may have an even harder time,” says KC Ellis, executive director of Copper Ridge Health Care. “Visit your local senior center to find programs designed for older adults. A senior center program can help you connect with people with similar interests and life circumstances.”
It can be easy for people to become socially isolated in old age as family dynamics change and friends move away. Staying socially connected with other people can have a positive impact on a person’s well-being. Make an effort to step outside of your comfort zone to meet new people and have an active, thriving social life. Whether you beef up old relationships or form new ones, your life will benefit from spending time with others.