Most of us know that exercise and nutrition are important factors in healthy aging, but did you know that strong social connections are also linked to better health outcomes? Studies suggest that social interaction leads to improved physical and mental health in people of all ages.
Some of the specific health benefits of social interaction include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Stronger immune system
- Reduced levels of stress
- Possible reduced mortality risk
- Reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, osteoporosis, and arthritis
- Reduced risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease or another cognitive impairment
- Reduced risk for developing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety
Unfortunately, many older adults find that their social networks shrink as they grow older, whether it’s due to changes in their health, the death of friends or a spouse, their living arrangements, or a lack of transportation. Senior who live alone often become isolated, which can lead to serious concerns such as anxiety, depression, malnutrition, and an increased risk of falling.
So, what can seniors do to improve their social connectedness and prevent isolation? Below are a few ways older adults can make new friends and stay connected after retirement.
Take a class
Retirement is the perfect time to find an activity or hobby you enjoy, and taking a class is a great way to learn something new with people who share your interests. Whether you take continuing education classes, join an exercise class or book club, or learn to play a musical instrument, trying a hobby makes it easier to connect with others and form friendships.
Volunteering is a wonderful way to spend time helping others while meeting new people. Many older adults find a sense of fulfillment and purpose by completing volunteer work for causes they’re passionate about. Volunteering is also known to help improve mood and reduce feelings of depression and stress.
In today’s digital age, it’s easier than ever for people to stay connected, even while separated by distance. Phone calls, email, social media, and snail mail are great tools for keeping in touch with long-distance family members and friends. If you’re not yet comfortable using computers, cell phones, or tablets, consider taking a class or asking a younger relative to help you learn.
Consider moving to a senior living community
Many older adults find that moving to a senior living community opens the door to endless opportunities to make new friends. In a senior living community, older adults are just steps away from friendly neighbors and a vibrant social life. Living surrounded by peers also helps older adults cope with age-related changes and build strong social connections based on shared interests. With a full menu of fun activities and outings for residents to enjoy together, senior living communities foster a welcoming and enriching environment for older adults.