How important is social support as a person ages? This may seem like an easy question to answer. Most people would not choose isolation and loneliness versus spending time with friends and loved ones. However, can lack of social support really hinder a person’s overall quality of life?
In a word, yes.
Lack of social support is related to negative impacts on health and well-being, especially for seniors. Having a variety of positive social supports can contribute to psychological and physical wellness of the elderly. While the relationship between physical activity and vitality is well-documented, multiple recent studies have also revealed an increasingly stronger link between social interaction and mental and physical well-being for seniors.
When you think about it, most seniors have spent a considerable portion of their lives in the company of others – be it in the workplace or raising children. Upon reaching retirement age, and with children leaving the house, the opportunities for socialization often decrease, especially if the senior must rely on others for transportation.
But research has indicated that an active social lifestyle is more important than ever in helping seniors maintain a sharp mind, remain connected to the world around them, increase feelings of happiness, and develop a sense of belonging.
Various studies have shown that socializing can produce the following positive effects:
- Improved mental health
Symptoms of depression and memory problems affect many seniors. In fact, approximately seven million people over the age of 65 experience symptoms of depression. Having consistent human contact and interaction can reduce depression, recent studies revealed
- Improved nutrition
The need for proper nutrition is vital for seniors, but healthy habits can be difficult to maintain when living alone. It is estimated that approximately 35% of the elderly population suffer from malnutrition.
- Improved physical health
Multiple studies have also revealed that an active social life can boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce physical pain that is reinforced by depression.
So where can a senior go to socialize and reap all of its benefits? At any of the Westshore Senior Centers, you will find a large offering of fitness, educational and social activities, with enough variety to appeal to nearly everyone. Many offer programs that include lunch (some free!), and you can also hear speakers on a wide range of topics.
In addition, as transportation can become a major cause of isolation, all of the Westshore Seniors communities offer transportation service for senior and disabled residents.
Feel free to visit your home community senior center for a tour or to learn about their programs. You are also welcome to participate at any of the Westshore Senior Centers’ activities. Come back often to www.westshoreseniors.org so you’ll be in the know. And, it’s good for your health!