Whether living at home or in a senior living community, one of the critical needs in the lives of seniors is socialization. Unfortunately, many seniors live alone, and senior isolation is not an uncommon problem. This critical need can seem difficult to remedy when looked upon at face value, but upon inspection, it can be an easy dilemma to solve.
“The more participation in social relationships, the better overall health for seniors,” said Dr. John Rowe and Dr. Robert Kahn in their 1998 book “Successful Aging.”
They understood the importance of social seniors and of seniors who are engaged in the world around them. A 2011 study done by the University of Miami’s Global Business Forum showed that “lifestyle and attitude are significantly more important than genes in determining the vitality of one’s golden years.”
Seniors living at home who are experiencing the best in independent living can still be lonely at times. Those receiving care at home may receive communication and contact with others, but may not always get to spend as much time with those caregivers as they would like. It’s important for all seniors – if possible – to get out of the house and socialize with others.
While socialization is often thought of as a group activity or a crowd situation, it can often be something as simple as a visit from family or a shopping trip and lunch or time spent together. That time together can help ward off illnesses and boost the immune system, research has shown.
The Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago published a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry which states that lonely individuals may be twice as likely to develop the type of dementia linked to Alzheimer’s disease in late life as those who are not lonely.
"Humans are very social creatures. We need healthy interactions with others to maintain our health," says Dr. Robert Wilson, a researcher involved in the study. "The results of our study suggest that people who are persistently lonely may be more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of age-related neuropathology."
The importance for seniors to socialize is well documented. But, again, some people have difficulty determining how to go about accomplishing that goal, even though the benefits of it are easily found.
Individuals in assisted living or memory care communities may have the greatest challenges in getting out in order to socialize, but they, too, can find that joining activities within their communities will provide them with opportunities to meet others and to participate in activities that stimulate their minds. Activities involving physical movement are especially beneficial.
For those who have an independent living situation and receive care at home, a drive with a friend or family member dinner at a restaurant can be the perfect outing. Or volunteering with a local Boys and Girls Club to be a grandparent to a child in an Adopt-a-Grandparent program can be extremely rewarding to both the senior and the child.
Most cities have a Senior Center where individuals can attend classes or lectures. Learning new skills is positive for everyone. The Senior Center can also be a good place to learn about volunteer opportunities nearby. The healing effects of giving back to a community have also been proven to be especially beneficial for the lonely. Not only are seniors sharing their skills, but they are interacting with new people and building new friendships.
Social seniors are happy and healthy seniors, regardless of what type of senior living community they choose. It’s important to get out of the house and get involved. For more information and tips on how to stay social during the golden years, visit the Seniorly Resource Center or search for senior housing options today!