Humans are social creatures by nature. We’re drawn to connect with other people and form close friendships and relationships. But as we grow older, it’s normal for our social circles to start to shrink. After leaving the working world, many retirees find that they have less face-to-face interaction with others, especially if they live alone. Over time, social isolation and loneliness can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health and well-being.
Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent social isolation and loneliness and reap the benefits of strong social connections. Here are some of the top reasons to stay socially active, no matter your age:
Recent research finds that a lack of socialization is linked to poor cognitive performance and progressive memory conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, people with more social engagement have a slower rate of age-related cognitive decline. According to the Global Council on Brain Health, one reason for the positive effect of social engagement on brain health may be that many social activities are inherently related to other activities known to benefit brain health, such as exercising, playing mentally stimulating games, or participating in clubs or groups that encourage critical thinking.
Everyone feels bored from time to time, and without the responsibilities of a full-time job, it’s common for new retirees to feel restless and bored. But over time, chronic boredom can have harmful effects, triggering feelings of depression or anxiety. Staying socially active is one of the best ways to fight boredom and prevent isolation.
Live a longer, healthier life
While both loneliness and social isolation are known to be associated with poor mental and physical health for people of any age, connecting with friends and family can reverse these negative effects. This is because when we’re socially active, we’re more motivated to be physically active, too. Being around others also helps to boost our immune systems, and positive social engagement can improve our mood. People who have strong social support also tend to have longer lifespans than those who are socially isolated.
Experience a sense of acceptance and belonging
Meaningful social activity is associated with greater well-being, throughout every stage of life. Spending time with friends and family contributes to self-esteem, happiness, and quality of life. Having a strong sense of social support also gives us a feeling of acceptance and purpose, which helps us cope with life’s stress and challenges.
Some great ways to connect and grow your social network:
Join a club
Joining a club can be a fun way to stay active and form friendships with other people who share your interests. There are many different types of clubs you can join, from book clubs to card clubs and even art clubs. Most senior living communities have clubs that cover a range of interests and tastes.
Try a new hobby
Retirement is the perfect opportunity to try something new and exciting. Have you always wanted to learn to play guitar? Maybe you want to take up an artistic activity like knitting, painting, or ceramics. Or, perhaps you’re interested in learning a new language or participating in a sport like golf, bocce, or pickleball. Hobbies allow you to stay mentally active and meet new people.
Helping others in your community provides a sense of purpose and social connectedness. Look for volunteer opportunities that match your interests and passions. Whether you volunteer as a docent at a local museum or sew quilts to donate to fire stations or hospitals, there’s no shortage of ways to give back and make a difference in your community.
Moving to a senior living community is one of the best ways for older adults to stay socially active and engaged. Today’s senior living communities provide a broad variety of social, recreational and volunteer opportunities to help residents ward off boredom and isolation and create lifelong friendships.