Humans are social creatures. Spending time with friends and family is not only enjoyable, but it is also essential to our overall health and wellness. In fact, one Forbes article cited research showing that low social interaction is as bad, or worse, for your health as alcoholism, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or never exercising.
This need to engage with others comes naturally. During childhood, we plan our days around who we are going to sit with at lunch and coordinating sleepovers with friends. When we enter adulthood, we plan happy hours, weekend dinners, and other social gatherings with friends and family. As individuals age, however, it can become more challenging to stay socially engaged, increasing the risk of social isolation and feelings of loneliness.
How does growing older impact our social lives? Our need for interaction with friends and family remains constant throughout our lives, but other aspects of our lives can change – retiring, moving, losing friends – limiting our social opportunities.
At The Pavilion Senior Living, with senior living communities in Tennessee, we understand the importance of socialization. It is our priority to create opportunities for individuals to engage with one another while complying with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines and ensuring our residents’ safety during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
How Socialization Benefits the Mind, Body, & Spirit
Harvard Medical School sums it up like this: “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”
A healthy social life has been shown to promote longevity. Every aspect of our health is connected, so being socially isolated or experiencing feelings of loneliness can negatively impact our mental and physical health. Social interaction helps to improve our overall health, which, in turn, increases our longevity.
To learn more about how socialization increases longevity, we encourage you to read our blog, “Increased Longevity and Socialization: Senior Living Can Help.”
Greater Self-Esteem and Sense of Purpose
Whether we want to admit it or not, we care how others perceive us. When we are socially active and interact with peers, we feel a sense of acceptance that feeds our self-esteem. In addition, socialization can provide individuals with a sense of purpose. Gatherings and other social obligations help us to feel needed and give us a reason to engage with others.
Improved Cognitive Functioning
It is no secret that mental stimulation and activity are significant components in promoting brain health. Socializing with peers and spending quality time with family help us stay mentally engaged. These social interactions require individuals to actively participate in conversations and pay attention to their surroundings, keeping their minds sharp.
Combatting Social Isolation
Change is a part of life, and we have to adapt to changes that can come as we age. While certain circumstances can increase the risk of becoming socially isolated, you can take actions to prevent social isolation and feelings of loneliness.
As with all aspects of life, our bodies go through changes as we grow older. These changes can lead to decreased mobility, making it more challenging to participate in the activities that we once enjoyed with friends and family.
Focus on your strengths and explore new interests and ways to engage with the individuals in your life.
When you live alone, you may be unintentionally limiting your opportunity for social interaction. Unlike living in a community, like The Pavilion Senior Living, the only opportunities for socialization occur when you leave your home, or someone takes the initiative to visit you.
Living in an assisted senior living community allows you to interact and engage with peers daily. Whether it’s during a dining experience, fitness class, or in the courtyard, these communities are full of friends, neighbors, and team members you can build relationships with.
Limited Access to Transportation
Unreliable or inconsistent means of transportation is a significant risk factor of isolation and feelings of loneliness. If you can no longer drive, you are reliant on others, such as family members or public transportation. This means that, unless this transportation is available whenever you need it, you may miss out on the activities and socializing events that you would otherwise attend.
Senior living communities host all events, activities, and gatherings on-site, so residents never have to rely on transportation to participate!
Quality vs. Quantity
The goal of an active and healthy social life is to form or nurture meaningful relationships. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “having a variety of important relationships with social support can make a difference [in our overall health and wellness.] A large Swedish study of people ages 75 and over concluded that dementia risk was lowest in those with a variety of satisfying contacts with friends and relatives.”
However, it is the quality of these relationships that matter. The interactions and relationships you have with others need to be significant or meaningful. When you socialize with a person you are comfortable around, your guard is down and you can be your true self. A close relationship with one or two friends can be more beneficial than visits with a dozen acquaintances.
Stay Virtually Connected
Because the global COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging to visit in person with friends and family, individuals are finding new or alternative ways to keep in contact with one another. Regular phone calls with friends and family are a great start to staying connected, but, thanks to today’s technology, we can go even further than that!
FaceTime or other forms of video calling, such as ZOOM, allow individuals to see one another while they visit. Even though we cannot socialize in person, we are still able to connect virtually. This opens up the opportunity to engage with friends and family who live far away or wouldn’t usually see.
Get Social (Media!)
Social media provides many platforms that allow individuals of all ages to stay connected with friends and family. From sharing pictures to chatting in the platform’s private message system, individuals can keep in touch with friends, both new and existing, classmates, neighbors, and family members.
While social media is an excellent tool for maintaining a healthy social life, there are a few precautions that should be practiced.
- Use Strong Passwords – This also means that you use a different password for each account.
- Update Your Privacy Settings – Control who can see specific information on your profile.
- Practice Self-Censorship – The general rule of thumb is: if it does not need to be shared, do not share it.
- Beware of Scam Messages – Scammers often target older individuals. If you receive a message from someone you do not know, do not respond to it.
- Be Selective About Who You Add as a “Friend” – Control who you add to your friends list. Do not accept friend requests from individuals that you do not know.
Consider Senior Living in Tennessee
An assisted senior living community can provide all of these socialization ideas and more. Residents get to know and connect with their neighbors; they share meals, activities, and a friendly face is always right down the hall.
The Pavilion Senior Living communities offer games, crafts, woodworking, libraries, spiritual services, fitness rooms, and more. There are also guest speakers and other special events designed to bring residents together and learn something new. There is no shortage of activities to keep even the most active individual busy! While we are still helping our residents remain socially active and engaged, we are taking the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety during these uncertain times.
If you no longer drive, that is not a problem. Scheduled transportation can take individuals to and from appointments and errands. Meanwhile, there is so much to do right in the community, including on-site shopping, dining, and business centers, that you may not want to leave very often!
The presence of other community members ensures that you will benefit from plenty of social interaction. Improved quality of life is something we all want, and a senior living community can help provide that.
For more information on The Pavilion Senior Living’s communities and services, contact a member of our team.
Updated on November 1, 2021