Socializing ranks right up there with diet and exercise on the “aging” ladder of importance. Sometimes, when a spouse dies or a senior falls into ill health, friends and family withdraw simply because the person doesn’t fit in anymore with their lifestyles. Rather than keeping busy and finding other friends or methods of socializing, seniors often develop depression which can lead to other diseases such as alcoholism, heart disease and even cancer.
It’s been proven that seniors who enjoy an active social life can extend their lives by years. There are an abundance of benefits for socializing other than life extension –stress reduction, a feeling of importance and high self esteem are just a few of the benefits. Keeping active also reduces the risk of mental diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Many times seniors must make the effort to become involved rather than waiting for someone to come to them. Getting involved in the community or other organizations soon after a spouse’s death can mean the difference in seniors wallowing in self-pity or enjoying a healthy mix of friendships and outside activities. Attending church, joining clubs and making or nurturing old friendships takes little effort, but the benefits are enormous.
Being around people who have the same interests help seniors enjoy life even more. Laughing, sharing old memories and creating new ones are the best medicines to keep from thinking and focusing on the negatives in life. Joining an activity that’s new or something challenging, such as dancing classes, are especially helpful for seniors.
A new research study from Harvard University advocates that socializing for seniors has as much benefit as regular exercise. Having a job, whether paid or volunteer, is also an important and valuable way that seniors can socialize. Feeling needed and helpful is extremely mind-lifting and can make all the difference in seniors’ lives.
Most of us rely on human contact for our very survival, unlike other species in the animal kingdom. From the time we’re born and depend on our mother and father to feed and take care of us until the later years when we may need to depend on others to drive us to the grocery store or take us to a doctor’s appointment, most of us depend on other human beings.
It’s not surprising that as we age, socializing with others becomes more important than ever. We need all types of stimulation, including contact with others who either share our interests and opinions or have interests and opinions that are entirely new to us.
Remember in the movie, Cast Away, when actor, Tom Hanks played a man alone on a desert island. He becomes so lonely that he creates a buddy by drawing a face on a ball he found. In the end, he mourned the loss of the ball much as we would a friend or family member. Deprived of socializing, we may also feel isolated and alone.