As we age, the types of social interactions we enjoy may change as new friends are made and our interests and hobbies shift focus. The value of these relationships and activities cannot be overstated for seniors in terms of their positive impact on physical and mental health.
There’s a robust body of scientific research that shows socialization boosts seniors’ immune systems, benefits memory, and may even increase lifespan. Conversely, when older individuals become secluded and stop being social, their overall health suffers.
Below are some of the benefits seniors can enjoy by staying socially active, maintaining connections, and forging new friendships.
Top Reasons for Seniors to Maintain Friendships as They Age
An Active Social Life May Increase Your Lifespan
Research has consistently shown that seniors with active social lives have a significant edge in lifespan over those who are not as connected to friends. Some studies have found that regular socializing has an even more profound impact on longevity than exercise or whether a person smokes. A recent research analysis crunched the numbers and found that in a study of 3.4 million people, mortality risk was 20 percent higher for seniors who were socially isolated.
Socialization Helps With Stress Management
Just because someone is retired and enjoying their golden years doesn’t mean they are living stress-free. Just like anyone else, seniors can suffer from the physical and emotional effects of stress. Some symptoms of stress that impact seniors’ quality of life include headaches, heart palpitations, sleep issues, and anxiety.
Studies show that social support benefits seniors’ mental health by improving their ability to handle stressful situations. This is important because as people age their ability to regulate cortisol levels in response to stress weakens. Seniors who are more socially connected can more efficiently respond to stress by managing their emotions. This decreases stress-induced cortisol levels which calms the nervous system and improves mental and physical health.
Friendships Can Strengthen the Immune System
While it’s well established that seniors who lead secluded lives tend to suffer from a myriad of health-related issues, those who maintain an active social network can improve their health outcomes.
Researchers have found that regularly socializing can strengthen seniors’ immune systems and help them bounce back more quickly from illness, decreases their risk of heart disease, and even get a better night’s sleep. A recent study from the University of Chicago found loneliness can significantly affect someone’s blood pressure, particularly when they are older, potentially increasing it by up to 30 points.
Seeing Friends Gives Mood a Boost
Contact with friends has been closely linked by research studies to a better sense of well-being, happiness, and life satisfaction for older adults. Simple conversations, companionship, and fun were found to improve mood for seniors. What’s interesting about these studies is that the boost in mood was more significant with their friends than with other types of social interactions throughout the day.
While not much specific research has been conducted in this area, the conclusions point to the importance of friendship when it comes to social connections. Finding friends who share the same interests, make you laugh, and who you enjoy spending time with improves mood and provides all the other benefits of having an active social life.
Mental Activity, and Socializing Can Improve Seniors’ Cognitive Health
Scientists have found that as people get older the brain continues to change and create new pathways. This means that human brains can stay sharp well past the formative years. But to get the full benefit of what’s called neuroplasticity it comes down to the old adage, “use it or lose it.”
This is why social engagement for seniors should include new hobbies and games they can share with others while building new friendships. Even something as simple as playing cards, bingo or doing puzzles with friends can have a positive impact on cognitive health. Read Blakeford’s informative blog, 4 Ways to Make Friends in a Senior Living Community for more information.)
Socializing Is Great, but Choose Your Friends Carefully
It’s important for seniors to make sure their social circle is made up of the right kinds of friends. If people they interact with have bad habits such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, or even a bad attitude that behavior can be contagious.
Instead, experts say it’s a better idea for seniors to stay connected with friends who motivate them to adopt healthier habits such as staying on track with health screenings and other types of self-care. These friends can also help notice if someone is having issues with hearing, vision, or other potential health problems.
At Blakeford, there’s never a shortage of activities to enjoy with your friends. From restaurant outings to cultural events such as the symphony, monthly birthday celebrations, and educational opportunities your social calendar will be as full as you like. To learn more about senior living options in Nashville, TN, contact us today!