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7 benefits of friendships and social groups as we age

Benefits of friendships as we age

For many older adults, the opportunities for an active social life often decline along with their health and energy. As illness or mobility issues limit what they can do, risk of isolation increases. Connecting with others who love us and share similar interests is important at any age, but for elderly people, whose lifestyles may lessen their social opportunities, these connections are crucial to healthy physical and emotional well-being.

Dangers of Isolation

A lack of connection with others can lead to poor emotional health, high blood pressure and a decline in physical health. Studies show that older adults who suffer from depression and isolation have a higher mortality rate than those more satisfied with their lives and relationships, making social engagement just as important as other steps to maintain physical and emotional health.

Benefits of Social Engagement

More than combating the negative effects of isolation, an active social life allows older people to experience an array of benefits that help to enhance their overall well-being. Key benefits include:

  1. Enhanced Mental Health
    Isolation is one of the leading causes of depression in older adults. Loneliness can easily turn to feelings of worthlessness and despair. On the other hand, socialising can help older adults feel loved and needed as their lives are affirmed by the activities they do and by those with whom they interact. Being around other people, especially if you’re doing something fun or rewarding, helps us keep a healthy mental state with a positive outlook on life.
  2. Sense of Belonging
    Enjoying the company of others who have similar personalities or interests helps us feel like we belong somewhere. For those who may have lost a spouse or a close friend, the need to belong may be more intense. Engaging with others can cultivate new friendships, and doing something meaningful together creates lasting bonds.
  3. Better Self-Esteem
    Self-esteem can plummet for those who have trouble doing as much as they use to or are alone too often. The more people socialize or participate in activities with others, the more they benefit by feeling like they contribute to their community. Any kind of positive interaction with friends, family or neighbours can help us feel confident in ourselves and our abilities.
  4. Improved Physical Health
    When we have good conversations or do things we love with others, our bodies take note and release health-promoting chemicals that boost the immune system to ward off illness and make us feel physically well. Also, socialising promotes an active lifestyle and better nutritional intake. Older people who are isolated are more likely to skip meals, whereas those who are socially active often share meals with friends and family.
  5. Increased Cognitive Functioning
    According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, socialising is key to keeping the brain sharp as we age. Having an active social life encourages us to continue learning, observing and responding to the world around us. Conversation and activity are great for exercising the mind and can potentially lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  6. Accountability
    No matter what our age, we are more likely to keep ourselves well if we have people holding us accountable. Older adults are less likely to develop habits of declining self-care if they’re around others they care about. Socialising creates reasons to stay well and helps foster a positive state of mind.
  7. Purposeful Living
    Staying social benefits older people by helping them feel that their lives still have purpose. Having somewhere to go, something meaningful to do or people to see helps us get out of bed, excited to face the day. When we cultivate strong relationships with others, we gain a sense of fulfilment, and spending quality time with those we love reminds us that life is A Community of Connection

If you or a loved one is suffering from an isolated lifestyle, the time to take action is now. Make a lunch date with a friend, find an elderly centre near you or consider making a change in your lifestyle. For many, moving to an older persons living community is the best solution for fighting isolation.

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