We humans are social creatures. This means we have the natural desire to interact and be with other people during every stage of our lives – including our senior years. However, some seniors, through a variety of reasons, find themselves living alone with limited interaction or engagement with friends or family.
This is unfortunate since social involvement is a major component of the overall well-being and good health of any senior. Consider the 2008 study by the Harvard School of Public Health, which found evidence that elderly people in the U.S. who have an active social life may have a slower rate of memory decline. Or “The Nun Study,” which detailed how positive emotions and thoughts in life (often a result of being active and involved) are linked to less disease and lower mortality rates, and can help develop a natural immunization against Alzheimer’s disease.
These and other research illustrates that when seniors maintain an active social life, and each day is filled with purpose and friendship, seniors have a greater opportunity to enjoy a high quality of life during their retirement years. Social activity also greatly reduces or even eliminates loneliness or depression, something that affects more secluded people.
Being social is achievable through purposeful planning. Individuals can create opportunities to be with other people and be involved in groups by:
* Contacting local senior centers, church groups or other organizations that offer a schedule of daily activities
* Signing up for art, music, or physical fitness classes through the local community college or parks and recreation department
* Volunteering or mentoring at a local school, library, or museum
* Joining a local club (such as gardening, writing, reading, chess, knitting)
* Taking part in travel programs designed specifically for senior citizens
* Attending lectures at a local university or other organization
One time of day when socialization is most important is meal time – which most people share with others at least once a day. Senior citizens are encouraged to attend community meals at a senior center, church, or other organization, or to invite friends and family to dinner at a favorite restaurant, or at their home or retirement community. Additionally, seniors should try to accept invitations to join others at mealtime as often as possible.
Competitive sports are becoming more conducive to active seniors, with the growing popularity of organizations such as the Olympic-style “Connecticut Senior Games” for those over age 50. These events include badminton, table tennis, racquetball, golf, basketball, track and field, tennis, volleyball, bowling, cycling, shooting, softball, and swimming – and athletes up to age 89 take part. Additionally, seniors can be on the lookout for competitions in art, music, gardening and more at local fairs and other regional events.
As seniors age, they may consider moving into a retirement community, assisted living residence or a continuous care retirement community (CCRC), all of which typically have suitable social and cultural programs available daily, under one roof. These communities often include some type of van or transportation service – which helps those who no longer drive maintain a level of independence. These communities also have scheduled mealtimes, so gathering with friends and family for lunch or dinner is easily accommodated (and strongly encouraged).
If there is a senior in your life – or if you are planning for your own retirement – be sure to include as much social, physical and cultural activity as you can manage. You will be impressed by the benefits, and will enjoy a higher quality of senior living!