As we’ve explained before, socialization is an important activity for seniors to be engaged in. It keeps the brain stimulated and healthy, and promotes longer lifespans. It’s also been connected to greater feelings of happiness and life satisfaction. However, the integral role socialization plays in our set of biological needs is less understood and even worse, is used to inflict harm. For example, we use solitary confinement as a means of punishment and torture. When we consider the growing tide of global feelings of isolation and loneliness, our initiatives to increase socialization seem inadequate and practically nonexistent.
Benefits Of Socialization For Seniors
To increase socialization among our most vulnerable populations, public health organizations will need to shift priority, and assisted living and senior care providers will also need to focus more on promoting meaningful, frequent, and willing participation in social activities of their residents. According to AARP, more than 8 million senior adults are affected by isolation. Given that over one quarter of senior adults live alone, the true number of people affected by loneliness could be even higher.
Estimating the level of influence that socialization has on physical and mental health has been the goal of many studies in the past 50 years. One meta analysis of over 148 independent studies including 300,000 participants revealed that social connection was associated with a 50% reduced risk of early death. Another meta analysis of 70 independent studies and 3.4 million study participants indicated that social isolation had an even greater effect on mortality than the risks associated with obesity.
Although different studies point to differing levels of the exact influence loneliness holds over health, there is overwhelming evidence supporting that isolation does have a significant effect on mortality risk and mental health. For example, there is evidence that social isolation puts those afflicted at greater risk for depression, cognitive decline, and dementia. These same studies also point to social relationships predicting health related factors such as blood pressure, immune system, and inflammation.
There are many risk factors for socialization that could indicate increased risk for premature death. Living alone, strained relationships, no participation in social groups, and few friends are all risk factors associated with early death. Retirement and being physically impaired are also linked to higher risk for social isolation.
Seniors that lead an active social life are less likely to wind up with many of the physical and mental problems that plague seniors who live in isolation. Here are some of the common positive benefits that accompany having an active social life among seniors.
- Self-Esteem. Socialization has been shown to help seniors feel a sense of pride and self-esteem.
- Happier. Seniors that socialize are more likely to be at a reduced risk for depression. Continuous socialization reduces the likelihood that a seniors feels isolation and loneliness.
- Longer lifespan: According to multiple studies, high levels of socialization reduce seniors risk for premature mortality.
- Reduced Stress: Those who are socially active are more equipped to handle stress. By sharing feelings and enjoying the company of others, seniors can reduce stress and improve cardiovascular health and immune system.
- Better fitness. Seniors with large, diverse support networks are more likely to exercise on a regular basis. Read more about Senior Health and Fitness here.
- Sense of Purpose. For many seniors, life after retirement can be listless and less exciting than their career. Being a part of a community helps give them a sense of purpose.
- Enhanced Cognitive Function. Because of the link between isolation and the development of alzheimer's and dementia, seniors that can avoid isolation often have a better chance of avoiding the onset signs of cognitive decline.
Ways to Increase Socialization for Seniors
We all get a little bit happier when we get to do the things we like best. Hobbies are an excellent way for seniors to achieve purpose and increase their sociability. If your senior enjoys painting or drawing, you should encourage them not only by praising their efforts but perhaps sign them up for art classes nearby. Even if they don’t believe they’re good enough, there are plenty of beginner options and other art mediums such as scrap-booking, pottery, photography, knitting, or sewing. Art therapy is an excellent modicum for expression and a great chance to get out there and make friends.
Whether you enroll in local community classes, or join a senior community offering all kinds of classes and amenities, you’re practically guaranteed a great time. The key behind finding the right activity is getting your senior actively engaged in a fun hobby that they will enjoy, and that encourages physical activity and social participation. There are plenty of other great hobbies to assist a senior in developing. Try exploring options related to:
- Arts and crafts
- Playing card games/board games
- Collecting Items
- Furniture restoring
- Bird Watching
- Learning a new language
- Crossword Puzzles
- Appliance Repair
For seniors who are within a retirement community, nursing home, or live at home with assistance, something as simple as taking a drive with a family member or friend could be hugely beneficial. Go see a movie, go out to dinner, or even enroll your senior in the Adopt-a-Grandparent program hosted by the Boys and Girls Club. Many cities in the U.S. have senior centers, where individuals can attend classes, socialize, and learn new skills. They will also get the chance to share their own skills and stories.
Social Seniors equal happy seniors, regardless of where they live, or what type of community they are a part of. It’s important to get your senior out of the house and involved in a myriad of activities that promote a healthy mind and a healthy body. If you’re worried about a senior who may be experiencing signs of loneliness and isolation, consider looking into an assisted living community.
At Landmark Senior Living, we make sure all of our residents have ample time to socialize, and we continually host events for all residents to participate in at our senior living communities. This includes outings, speakers, and music events to keep our guests entertained and engaged. Visit our website to learn more about our locations, amenities, and services.