Bringing Neighbors Together

Older Adults and the Importance of Social Interaction

by Yale Medical Group

As you get older and retire or move to a new community, you may not have quite as many opportunities to socialize as you did when you were younger.

If you're not heading to an office or getting out and about each day, you may be missing out on important social interaction that you need to stay sharp, healthy, and maybe even ward off dementia. Research has shown that social interaction offers older adults many benefits. Staying socially active and maintaining interpersonal relationships can help you maintain good physical and emotional health and cognitive function.

People who continue to maintain close friendships and find other ways to interact socially live longer than those who become isolated. Relationships and social interactions even help protect against illness by boosting your immune system.

The benefits of being social

Specific health benefits of social interaction in older adults include:

  • Potentially reduced risk for cardiovascular problems, some cancers, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Potentially reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk for mental health issues such as depression

Conversely, social isolation carries real risks. Some of these risks are:

  • Feeling lonely and depressed
  • Being less physically active
  • Having a greater risk of death
  • Having high blood pressure

Social interaction helps keep your brain from getting rusty, but it's most effective when coupled with an overall healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet and physical activity.

Keeping your connections strong

Start by staying in touch with friends and family, and try to visit with them regularly. Here are other ways you can maintain a high level of social interaction:

  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Visit a senior center and participate in offered activities with other seniors—this is a great way to make new friends.
  • Join a group focused on activities you enjoy, such as playing cards or a book club.
  • Try taking a class—learn a new language or a new style of cooking or experiment with a new hobby.
  • Join a gym or fitness center to stay physically fit and engage with others.

Find ways to stay young at heart, stimulated, busy—and out of the house. Schedule regular visits with grandkids or volunteer at a school or children's organization to enjoy time with little ones and absorb some of their youthful energy.

Although staying in touch in person is important, phone calls, snail mail, and e-mail can keep you connected, too—if you're not yet comfortable with computers, ask a young relative to help you.

Staying socially active and maintaining your relationships are an important part of healthy aging. Reach out to your loved ones—neighbors, friends, family members—and stay as vibrant, active, and social as you've always been.


1 Responses »

  1. Great article to get us thinking....are we being as socially interactive as we could be? We have a great web site to post ideas, comments and share our community goings-on, but it is seldom used for some reason. I know some think they do not have the experience to post...just write as you would speak. Spell a word wrong, well, we'll figure it out. We'll certainly disagree sometimes, that's a given, makes it more fun. I'll probably dig Darcie, KathyA or Peter and you can bet they'll come back with some smart remark....but it's all so much fun! They get into trouble, I'll be the first one at their door. Just don't take it personal...we come from all walks of life and will never agree on everything. How about sharing that great Christmas Party you went to in the neighborhood....maybe the recipe for a dish someone took that was out of this world. Who did your flower arrangement. catered the meal, a funny story someone told, the dessert flop even the dog wouldn't eat. I read some of the other web sites HOA's have and wish we had the same sharing....maybe we can work on it and make it better. Just saying.........one who always makes her opinion public, without being asked. :-) HO HO HO MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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