Socialization – a Key to Healthy Aging!

September 7, 2015

social life of the elderlyAlthough seniors and the elderly are the largest growing population in the US, they are also one of the most isolated lot. They may be aware of their medical issues like blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, but are hardly concerned about the social issues of their lives and rarely do they give any significance to socialization that is probably one of the most important parts of all stages of life. However, seniors experience less social interaction when compared to the younger individuals. Many elderly reside in a hospital or a nursing home rather than in the community. As such, they live far away from friends and families and feel isolated. By maintaining a high level of activity and interacting with people regularly, they can continue to enjoy and improve their lives. The Pew Internet Research revealed that the social media use amongst seniors has doubled in recent years and they are the fastest growing demographics.

Having someone to talk to, share a meal with and having various interests help seniors lead happier and healthier lives. They feel loved, supported and needed. The more socially active the elderly are, the less likely are they to be depressed. The connections to people and activities give them a purpose to look forward to and stay mentally sharp. It keeps them from feeling isolated and alone. Activities including games, walking, volunteering, reading and even talking with others are necessary for everyone and more so for the seniors. As we grow older, the importance of being socially active grows by leaps and bounds.  In fact, social isolation among older adults is an increasingly problematic issue considering they will be almost 20% of the entire US population.

As people age, the social aspects of their lives change, like retirement from work, children moving away from home, limited mobility and transportation push us towards isolation and loneliness. This can negatively affect their health because the elderly can thrive when they get adequate exercise and socialization. According to a recent research by the university of Miami, lifestyle and attitude are significantly more important than genes in determining the vitality of a person’s golden years. The influence of genetics shrinks proportionately as a person gets older while his social and physical habits become more important to his mental and physical health.

Strong social ties are important in preventing illness. Having a variety of positive social supports can contribute to psychological and physical wellness of the elderly individuals. It can help in reducing stress, increasing physical health and defeating psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. A social engagement may stimulate multiple body systems – including the cognitive, cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems. According to the American Journal of Public Health social ties can preserve mental health and prevent cognitive decline to a large extent. Socialization has also proven successful in reducing depression in at-risk older adults in community settings and tends to reduce the physician visits and the hospital readmissions. It can also contribute to the psychological and physical wellness of the elderly individuals. Support from others can be important in reducing stress, increasing physical health and defeating psychological problems. As we grow older, our life circumstances push us towards loneliness and isolation unless we cultivate new relationships. In order to save ourselves from isolation, we need to be more social. There are several benefits to it:

  • Sense of Purpose and Belonging – One of the major advantages of socializing is it can enhance your loved one’s quality of life and also add years to their expected lifespan. They will be able to make new friends and strengthen their relationships when they are engaged in activities that they love.
  • Increasing Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem – Joining a group of people with the same interests makes life more fun. Volunteering or working can both provide a reason to get up and go with a smile and maintain enthusiasm towards life. Feeling helpful and needed often makes a huge difference in anyone’s life at any age.
  • Improving Physical and Mental Health – Spending time with others raises self-confidence. So does keeping up with current news and trends. Think about how your loved one would feel if he/she was asked to lead a current events group, use a computer, or offer tips on learning the basics of a smartphone. No matter what their age is, but they surely will feel proud if they were asked to teach a group of peers how to play poker, figure out a Sudoku puzzle, or bake a special family recipe.

As a result, we can conclude that socialization in the elderly tends to improve and enhance cognitive functioning of the individuals as they support each other through conversation and sharing of experiences and also encourages independence as regards the activities of daily living, strengthening the physical and emotional abilities and transitioning from an independent living environment to a more structured living facility.

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