Everyone knows that to stay healthy, it’s important to eat right, get some exercise, and avoid burning your skin in the sun. Did you know that, once you retire, maintaining an active social life can help keep you in good health, too?
Since July is National Social Wellness Month, it’s a good time to explore the impact that staying social can have on your health.
Researchers have found that feelings of social isolation are linked to mental and physical health problems.
Today’s older Americans are more likely to feel isolated than seniors of previous generations. As the population ages, the link between aging, isolation, and health could grow to become a significant public health issue.
Feeling Isolated May be Bad for Your Physical Health
Spending time around people who care about you can be a great way to stay healthy during retirement. Staying social not only makes you feel better, but it is also good for your overall well-being.
The AARP reports that studies have linked perceived isolation to increased blood pressure, higher rates of colds and the flu, indulgence in unhealthy behaviors, and even the early onset of dementia.
Isolation among older Americans has also been linked to higher mortality rates from breast cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases
Why does this happen?
Scientists believe that social contact has profound physiological effects which can reduce stress hormones and inflammation. For whatever reason, feeling lonely seems to trigger an innate response in human beings, called “fight-or-flight”. This is the same response triggered by extremely stressful situations. The body reacts with inflammation and reduced efficiency of the immune system.
Doctors know that stress and inflammation play a role in many chronic conditions. Over the long term, the presence of stress and inflammation may even contribute to serious illnesses like cancer.
Isolation May Also Contribute to Cognitive Decline
One study of 2,000 people found that those who live by themselves were overwhelmingly prone to dementia. Even when a housemate was present but the participants in the study reported simply feeling lonely, their risk of cognitive decline increased.
What can we take from those results?
Scientists believe that regular social contact keeps the neurons in the brain active, thereby warding off dementia. Viewed in this light, socializing is akin to a workout for the brain.
Be Proactive About Staying Social
Maintaining friendships isn’t always as easy as we’d like it to be, especially as we age. In your 20s, your friends probably formed the pillars of your social life. Now, after years of childrearing, climbing the corporate ladder, or moving around from state to state, you’ve more than likely lost touch with a good portion of your oldest buddies.
Once you retire, you often lose the social network you formed at work.
Staying social during retirement requires a proactive approach. There are plenty of ways to actively seek out new friendships.
Hobbies are a wonderful way to meet people with similar interests. For example, do you love nature and animals? Joining a birdwatcher’s group can connect you with others who share your appreciation for the natural world.
Another example: do you love helping people learn? Volunteering to become a mentor is one of the best ways to connect. It affords you the opportunity to make deeper, lasting relationships that may last for years.
The Social Dimension of Wellness
There are other great ways to make new friends and develop existing friendships as well. Seniors who live at one of Indiana’s Five Star Senior Living communities enjoy active social lives via a full schedule of social events. They participate in leisure and recreation activities that take place right at home and they enjoy social events like book clubs, Tai Chi and holiday celebrations.
Socializing is a vital part of the wellness formula. Here at Five Star Senior Living, we’ve made that an essential principle in all of our communities. Want to learn more? Call us today to schedule a tour of an Indiana community near you.