How important is social interaction as a person ages? We understand the importance of social interaction in children in their developing stages of life. However, research shows that remaining socially active as a person gets older is extremely important and has a significant impact on a person’s physical well-being and mental health!
Many seniors suffer from loneliness, and some of the contributing factors include:
- Loneliness from losing a spouse
- Inability to independently manage daily activities
- Difficulty coping and accepting physical changes of aging
- Frustrations with ongoing medical problems and increasing the number of medications
- Social isolation as adult children are busy in their own lives
- Feeling inadequate about an inability to continue work
- Boredom from being retired and a lack of routine activities
- Financial stresses from the loss of income
If loneliness becomes overwhelming, it can lead to depression, which can make it even harder to get out and make those social contacts.
In the United States, the fastest growing age group consists of individuals age 85 and older. Family supports may not always be available. Community based services are increasingly becoming more important than ever.
Senior centers are a great way to remain socially active and they serve as a focal point for older Americans to get together with others with similar interests and participate in age-related programs including health and fitness programs, educational programs and a variety of social programs, as well as gathering for meals. They may even be able to do much-needed volunteer work. Senior centers offer opportunities to develop and maintain a social network. The challenge is….. to take advantage of the opportunities. Sometimes excuses get in the way.
Research shows that seniors who stayed busy with a lot of social interaction were some of the happiest and healthiest of their age group, and live longer than those who become isolated. Relationships and social interactions even help protect against illnesses by boosting the immune system. Some of these health benefits include:
- Potentially reduced risk for cardiovascular problems, some cancers, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk for mental health issues such as depression
The opportunities to get involved socially are out there. Don’t be afraid to take that first step! You’ll be HAPPY you did!