Socializing important for seniors

For Active Aging
Published: 4/22/2019 1:43:14 PM

By now, most people have heard that remaining socially engaged as you age has important health benefits. Experts agree socializing with others helps to stave off feelings of loneliness, improves overall physical health and helps keep our minds sharp, potentially reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

This sounds easy, right? Just be in contact with friends and family and participate in activities you enjoy on a routine basis and you’ll be improving your health. But, this can be challenging, especially as we age.

As we age, health conditions, mobility issues and a decreasing social circle due to such things as life changes and family moving far away can have a big impact on our social lives. In addition, those dealing with health issues can become so caught up in managing doctor’s appointments that it can become hard to make social connections a priority.

Luckily most communities have opportunities where one can engage with others and gain the benefits of doing so even if they have limited mobility or other health challenges.

Start by asking yourself what activities you miss participating in, then check in with some local groups to get connected: your church, your local recreational department, a library or one of the many local nonprofits who have programs for seniors. These groups can provide an important support system and reduce the obstacles that may get in the way of being socially active.

A great way to nurture some new relationships is through volunteering. There are many wonderful nonprofits where you can volunteer to plan activities, make friendly check-in calls, give some of your expert advice to others, provide a ride, and more.

Look at things on the flip side, is there something you could use help with? Accepting help from volunteers can also provide a nice social connection and lead to lasting friendships. I know first-hand, from my experience with Monadnock at Home, that there are so many caring volunteers who love providing support to seniors. Many are seniors themselves making connections as they give back.

Make small adjustments to things you are already enjoying. Doing a puzzle and reading a book are healthy for the mind, but doing a puzzle with a friend or joining a book club, will have both mental and social benefits.

Embracing the use of technology is another way to help you feel more connected. Video chatting with grandchildren will certainly put you in high spirits. Sign up for a workshop or find out how a volunteer can take the mystery away from your hand held device and get you communicating with loved ones.

And when talking to family, it is important to be honest about your changing needs. In my experience, often times the adult child, even though living at a distance, helps their parent make a connection with a local organization that makes a big difference in their social connectedness.

Some other ways to maintain or increase your social connections: join a local fitness center, care for a pet, meet a friend for coffee, try a new hobby. If you are already socially active, the important take away is to keep it going as you get older. If your social circle starts to change or if you are feeling isolated, try something new and see if it sticks. And reach out to a local group, you’ll be healthier for it!

(Sandra Faber is executive director of Monadnock at Home, a nonprofit started in 2010, supporting seniors in the Monadnock Region who wish to remain independent at home and thrive in their community. Monadnock at Home is a part of the greater “Village Movement,” a network of nonprofits across the country who are committed to helping seniors age-in-place.)

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