Although it’s true that some things change with age, the important things don’t have to. Reaching older age doesn’t have to be a dull, sedentary experience, regardless of physical capability. Active aging is truly about living a full, healthy life, with seniors as “fully participating members of society,” according to the Council on Active Aging. There are several different facets of living a healthy lifestyle that go beyond physical health, and a major one is social wellness.
Here are a few ways socialization can positively affect seniors:
Maintained Cognitive Ability
Social outings, visits or connections often revolve around an activity, many of which can be cognitively stimulating, even without us realizing it! Beloved pastimes such as:
playing a game of chess with a neighbor
knitting with a friend
dancing with grandchildren
reminiscing with relatives
are all examples of subtle cognitively stimulating exercises that can keep aging minds sharp, while allowing older individuals to connect with loved ones in meaningful ways. Read one of our recent past articles for more ideas of senior outings that can effectively engage the brain in enjoyable ways.
Whether it’s retirement, the loss of a spouse or friends, or adult children and grandchildren moving away, there are a variety of different circumstances that often leave older adults feeling isolated. Studies show that, though senior loneliness is common - (42 percent of seniors have admitted to feeling alone some of the time) - it’s repercussions are significant. A University of California, San Francisco study revealed a connection between loneliness and death, with adults at least 60 years of age facing an increased 45 percent risk of mortality.
One of the factors that may explain this is that seniors tend to fare better when they have people coming by to check on them and make sure they’re well. In the end, setting time aside to spend with aging loved ones doesn’t just help them make the most of the time they have left, it can help keep them around for longer.
Improved Quality of Life
Though there is beauty in quiet moments of solitude, the moments can begin to seem like hours to someone who is older, homebound, or generally not getting a healthy level of human interaction. Even those who do experience a healthy amount of interaction with other loved ones living in the home, or in other minor interactions circumstances, seniors can still end up feeling lonely if the quality of those interactions doesn’t leave them feeling fulfilled.
Taking the time to listen to aging individuals and hear what they’re saying (and what they’re not saying), can provide a better sense of their needs and spending time that focuses on the level of connection rather than the amount of time spent can be even more impactful. Read our article for visit ideas that help strengthen relationships with an older adult.
If interested in playing a part in helping to end loneliness in St. Louis, join our Visit-A-Bit program: https://visitabit.org/become-a-volunteer/