Even if you don’t consider yourself a social butterfly, you may want to begin increasing your amount of socializing as you get older. Social relationships and engagement with others have been clinically shown to help the elderly age more gracefully as well as encourage better health over time.
Loneliness in life might be expected and even healthy at times, but, as you age, the more you engage with others, the better.
Loneliness and solitude are not just anti-social, they can have negative effects on your health and even result in a shorter life expectancy. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities out there for seniors looking for ways to get involved, make friends, and create social engagements in their lives.
Family, friends, co-workers, and significant others are often those who make up your social group during your adult years. Unless you stay actively involved through different social outlets, you may find that these social groups begin to dwindle as the years go by. The children get older, you may retire, friends may move away or pass on, and soon it may just be you and your significant other spending time together.
For those who aren’t so lucky, they may find themselves alone with an occasional visit from the children and grandchildren, but this is not always enough. Social relationships are those that require you to connect with another person on a personal level.
These are friendships in which you share interests, relationships in which you share love and values, and familial relationships in which you share culture, understanding and more.
It is true that some are more social than others. Extroverts are those who gain energy and joy from being around lots of different people and interacting with them. Introverts, on the other end of the spectrum, are those that gain energy and happiness from spending time alone.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, though, you still require some amount of social engagement in your life to feel good and stay healthy.
The Importance of Being Social
Socializing is an important human activity at every stage of life. For young children it is useful for learning how to relate to other people, pick up on social cues, make friends and other connections, and learn more about the world.
As we grow, these same needs and goals are met through social interactions though they grow and morph with our different ages and stages of maturity.
For seniors, social interactions can affect the following:
• Self-perceived health
• Life satisfaction or dissatisfaction
A recent study conducted by Statistics Canada found that seniors who actively engage in social situations are more likely to perceive their health positively as well as lower the odds of loneliness and feelings of dissatisfaction.
Those who did not, however, reported more health problems, feelings of sadness and loneliness, and higher dissatisfaction rates in their lives.
The Health Benefits of Social Relationships and Engagement
Seniors who have and actively cultivate quality friendships and relationships are open to a host of health benefits.
Regular involvement with friends, family, and others can result in the following:
• Lower blood pressure
• Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
• Significant stress reduction
• Less risk for depression and other mental disorders and issues
The Dangers of Social Isolation
On the other end of the spectrum, failing to involve yourself with others can cause very real problems for your health.
Those who are socially isolated most of the time are in danger of these health risks:
• Feelings of depression and severe loneliness
• Developing high blood pressure
• An increased risk of death
• Less physical activity
• Poor diet
What You Can Do
Unsure of how to get yourself out there? There are plenty of opportunities specifically for seniors looking to increase the amount of social interaction in their lives. You don’t have to worry about doing things far outside of your comfort zone or even about putting yourself in difficult situations.
Many seniors find that they are able to pick an activity that suits their personality and comfort level that garners wonderful relationships.
Here are some suggestions of what you can do:
• Volunteering: Churches, schools, day cares, animal shelters and more are always on the lookout for volunteers. These places are great for seniors to make connections with others their age and younger in a safe environment.
• Get Involved With a Senior Center: Senior centers put on all kinds of activities for people in your specific stage of life. There’s no better place to make a new friend than at your local senior center.
• Join A Group: A group of people who share your same interests is a great social outlet you can engage in weekly or as often as you want. Play cards, see movies, or even try a book club.
• Take a Class: Whether this is an exercise class or an art class, enrolling in a course is one of the oldest and most successful ways to get to know other people and make lasting friendships.