Aristotle, the Greek philosopher said, “Man is by nature a social animal”. Man cannot live all by himself; he needs other beings to survive. From childhood through adulthood, we depend on our parents, other family members, friends, colleagues, etc in one way or the other. This social life must continue in old age as well.
As you age, you may retire and stop working, stop hanging out with your friends, or may have a condition that does not allow you to go out frequently or other factors can lead to decreased socialising. But one must remember that social life becomes essential during old age, as it has several emotional and physical benefits.
Benefits of social life as you age
Socialization helps you to mingle with people coming from various cultures. It helps to establish good communication skills, foster relationships, and encourage a sense of community. Socialising keeps senior citizens young at heart, mentally sharp and emotionally vibrant.
Social life during old age is important and has several health benefits:
Maintains cognitive function: Social activities keep mind sharp and mentally engaged. Research suggests that active social life can improve cognitive function, which can prevent dementia or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Supports emotional well-being: Loneliness can have a huge impact in older adults, which can lead to depression. Depression is quite common among older adults. Connecting with friends and family helps you to be in a positive mood; it makes you feel loved and wanted, and helps you keep a positive outlook on life.
Benefits physical health: A study suggests that social activities can slow the progression of declining health. Seniors who socialise tend to be more physically active too. When you have a social group, you eat healthy foods in sufficient amounts. Being surrounded by people whose company you enjoy can also reduce high blood pressure, stress, increase immune system functioning, decrease the risk of cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions. Although social activity is not an exercise, it makes you move out of the house, thereby keeping you physically active.
Helps you sleep better: Isolation and loneliness can affect your sleep duration and patterns. Studies have shown that individuals who have fulfilling relationships tend to sleep better than those who do not.
Having a social life during old age can be challenging. However, the benefits mentioned above make it worth trying for.
How to maintain a social life?
If you have not been socially active in the past, you can begin now. Here are a few tips that can help you socialise:
Maintain your social network: Stay in touch with your family members, friends, neighbours, and other people who are important to you. If they do not stay in the neighbourhood, you can connect through e-mail or other online applications. However, prefer to step out of the house and meet your peers, rather than sitting in the house.
Join a club: List down the activities that interest you and look if there are any clubs nearby that allow you to do these activities. Joining a book club, art club or golf club will help you meet people with similar interests.
Play games: Games such as crossword puzzles, chess and games that stimulate your intellectual ability to keep your mind active. Playing these games with others will help you to stay socially connected. These games are fun exercises for your brain.
Volunteer: If you wish to contribute to a greater cause, volunteer in your community. Volunteering provides a purpose and a sense of accomplishment. Several community centers, animal shelter, schools and hospitals are always in need of reliable volunteers. Search for organisations that provide opportunities for you to volunteer.
Go back to work: After retirement, many people experience stress and feel that they have lost a major part of their identity. If you still wish to or can work, consider taking a part-time job. A job will keep your mind stimulated, help you earn some extra money, and give a sense of contribution.
Learn something new: Learn to dance, play an instrument, a language, baking, etc. Acquiring new skills at any age is good. Many community colleges and senior centers offer courses designed specifically for older adults. Learning new skills can help stretch your mind, and classes are always the best to meet new people.
Explore social media: Trying out new technology and exploring online applications can keep you busy, if you are homebound. Several applications help you learn new talents, skills and help you develop interest. Social media allows you to know what is happening in others’ lives and stay connected with them. You never know you may find your long-lost friend on Facebook. Ask for help from your family members, if you do not know to operate any of the devices or applications.
Offer help to your family: When you have free time, offer to babysit your grandkids or your neighbour’s kids, take your loved ones out for lunch or dinner or to watch a football match. These are great ways to be involved in the lives of people who matter to you. Also, chasing around children will keep you physically active.
Join a fitness center: Your body or health concerns may not allow you to the gym regularly, so you can opt for a fitness center instead. There are several centers that provide sessions only for the older generation. You can meet older adults who are keen to stay physically fit and who can accompany you to exercise on other days.
With age, you may become intellectually and socially withdrawn. Making efforts to stay engage will provide several health benefits, a sense of purpose and belonging, help you find more joy and satisfaction in life. Overall, being socially active will help live a long, healthy and happy life.
- The Benefits of an Active Social Life for Older Adults. Kendal at Home Blog. https://www.kendalathome.org/blog/the-benefits-of-an-active-social-life-for-older-adults#:~:text=Staying%20social%20can%20reduce%20your,that%20can%20lead%20to%20depression. Accessed on 30th September 2020.
- Friends Make You Smart. AARP Foundation. https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-11-2008/friends-are-good-for-your-brain.html. Accessed on 30th September 2020.
- Why it’s Important that Seniors have a Social Life. Walker Methodist. https://blog.walkermethodist.org/blog/why-its-important-for-seniors-to-have-a-social-life. Accessed on 30th September 2020.
- Staying Socially Active as You Age. Silver Maples of Chelsea. https://silvermaples.org/importance-of-social-activities-for-seniors/. Accessed on 30th September 2020.