Despite our society being more technologically advanced and connected than ever, studies show that people are experiencing loneliness at higher rates. This is especially true for the senior population, with 43% of those over sixty-five regularly feeling lonely. With age comes a shrinking social circle as friends move away or pass on, work associations fade after retirement, and mobility or health issues make leaving home more difficult. The issue here for seniors experiencing loneliness isn’t only emotional; healthcare experts point to significant and potentially severe health problems resulting from elder isolation.
It’s crucial, then, for seniors to find ways to incorporate socialization into their routine. Below are some ideas that may help your loved one become and stay connected to their peers, family members, and friends:
Check out the Local Senior Center
Senior centers have become one of the most used services among seniors, with approximately 10,000 senior centers located across the country serving over 1 million adults every day. Senior centers offer a wide variety of programs, including meal and nutrition programs, health and fitness classes, transportation services, volunteer opportunities, and social and recreational activities. If your community doesn’t have a senior center, check out your local library or fitness facility for senior-centric programming.
According to the Pew Research Center, 34% of Americans over sixty-five use social networking sites. For seniors, using social media is an excellent way to stay connected and share photos with loved ones. It can also help bridge the intergenerational gap with grand and great-grandchildren. Seniors can use social networking sites as an easy way to connect with others that share similar hobbies and interests.
Chat via Video
FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom have become popular options for video chatting, especially over the last year and a half. Video chatting is the perfect way for your loved one to engage in conversation with friends and family while feeling like they’re in the same room. If your loved one struggles to become tech-savvy, consider a video-based communication device that is more senior-friendly. The GrandPad, ViewClix, Konneckt Videophone, and the Amazon Echo Show are all great options.
Engaging in regular social interaction has been shown to positively impact the health and well-being of senior citizens. Here are some of the best reasons for seniors to stay socially active:
A recent study of 300 adults over sixty-five showed that those with a varied social life spent more time moving and were less sedentary. This is good news considering the many benefits associated with being physically active.
Lower Risk of Dementia
There’s been significant research done on this topic, all pointing to varying degrees of cognitive benefit. One study saw socially active seniors’ potential for cognitive decline reduced by as much as 70%. Another studied a group of people over 80, comparing their brain function to subjects in their 50s and 60s. Those over 80 who reported maintaining positive friendships were more cognitively sharp than the younger study participants.
Longer Life Span
Some statistics suggest that having meaningful relationships is more impactful on one’s life span than exercising. Loneliness can contribute to chronic stress, which, over time, will cause wear and tear on the body as well as the brain. Friendships provide meaning to our lives and provide a support system to rely on when times get hard. Both are factors in reducing stress and, indirectly, lengthen one’s life span.
Stronger Immune System
Social interactions may lower the negative emotions that can cause inflammation linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Those with solid friendships tend to have stronger immune systems and anti-inflammatory responses, benefiting overall health.