Socialization Could Be the Secret to Health & Happiness for Seniors
While we may instinctively know community and connections are good for us, there are quantifiable measures that show just how important it is for our health and well-being.
How the Stats Stack Up
We talked to Eric Avery, Ph.D. and senior living consultant for our Capital Oaks Retirement Resort in North Carolina, about the effects of loneliness and isolation and he shared some interesting facts. In an academic review published by the Journal of Primary Prevention, which contains 77 supportive studies, there’s an overabundance of evidence demonstrating numerous negative health outcomes and potential risk factors related to social isolation.
In addition, there’s a 12-year study by the National Institute of Aging, including 8,300 senior citizens across the United States, one in six of the participants reported feeling lonely much of the time. Of these lonely individuals, nearly 50% experienced a high level of depression. In the same study, researchers found people who were lonely experienced cognitive decline 20% faster than people who were not lonely. Not only that, the risk of stroke increased by 32% and the risk of heart disease increased by 29%. Comparatively, loneliness and isolation show similar risk factors as obesity and smoking.
While these numbers might sound alarming, the good news is that loneliness can be prevented or easily changed. With the right steps and willingness to open your heart and mind to new friendships, there can be a happier, healthier road ahead.
Solutions for Socialization
It’s natural for our social networks to thin as we age. Dr. Avery said it’s reported that 30% of Americans older than 65 now live alone and 50% of those are 85 and older. But research also tells us the quality of our social interactions, more than the number of our relationships, determines loneliness. That means it only takes one person or a few great conversations on a consistent basis to help someone feel truly connected, mentally sharp and intellectually engaged.
This is where living in a well-planned retirement community, such as RLC, can be incredibly beneficial. Our all-inclusive resort-style communities provide a relaxing and worry-free retirement lifestyle. Socialization is encouraged through a schedule of daily activities and events. Shopping and other fun outings are also planned and encouraged. The health and wellness programs, fitness center, and Freedom Dining program make it easy to stay engaged and connected with new friends. Everything is taken care of by our professional staff, including housekeeping and cooking, which allows residents the time to enjoy all the amenities we have to offer.
In addition to living in a vibrant community, Dr. Avery suggests five things seniors can do to encourage socialization:
- Attend and participate in clubs, churches/synagogues, fitness centers, and regular doctors’ appointments. It may also help to pick up a hobby, volunteer, or join a special interest group.
- If appropriate, get a pet. Several studies report that pet owners have less depression and loneliness, feel more secure, have more motivation for constructive use of time, and require less medication than non-pet owners. This is one reason why all Resort Lifestyle Communities are pet-friendly.
- Try adaptive technologies such as hearing tests/aids, vision tests/glasses and fall prevention/walkers. This can help make communicating and socializing with others a little easier.
- Consider taking a class for continuing education. A study conducted in 2012 with more than 1,200 seniors participating showed that cognitively engaged seniors, whose average age was 80, were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than seniors with less cognitive activity.
- Open your arms! Research has shown that friendly platonic touching from friends and family can lower stress and promotes feelings of well-being. Even those who are not the “touchy-feely type” can benefit from a quick hug.
To summarize, socialization is essential for your well-being. If you’re considering a move, reach out to a Resort Lifestyle Community near you to learn how we can assist you in providing a safe, vibrant lifestyle. We’d love to meet you, show you around, and even share a hug or piece of chocolate.
National Institute of Aging (NIA)
Journal of Aging Life Care
The Rush Memory and Aging Project
Department of Psychology, West Virginia University
Nicholson, N.R. J Primary Prevent (2012) 33:137
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