As we get older, factors such as health conditions, mobility limitations or a lack of energy can keep us from being as socially active as we once were. A diminishing social life might happen gradually as family members grow busy and close friends experience the same conditions. We may not even notice how much time has passed since we enjoyed the company of others. However, research shows that social isolation in older adults can lead to dangerous health risks and a poorer quality of life.
The Risks of Social Isolation
“Many don’t realize the importance of socialization for seniors,” says Tonya Cox, Executive Director at The Homeplace at Midway in Midway, KY, “possibly assuming that elderly adults have reaped as many benefits from socializing as they can. However, failing to maintain social connections has serious effects on seniors’ health, causing poor emotional health and depression, high blood pressure, decreased physical health and even a greater risk of death.
“At The Homeplace, we encourage our residents to stay active with family, friends and neighbors, and we work to design programs that interest and excite them. Age can be a natural slide to social isolation if we don’t work to stay involved on a social level.”
Socialization Takes a Proactive Approach
Just like eating healthy and staying physically fit, socialization requires a bit of effort. In her article “The Importance of Socializing at Senior Living Communities,” United Methodist Homes Vice President of Marketing, Promotions and Assisted Living Operations Elizabeth Bemis, MA, says, “Human nature leads us to crave fulfilling relationships with other people. As we age however, life circumstances may push us toward loneliness and isolation unless we take proactive steps to cultivate new relationships.”
Bemis also suggests a few ways seniors can socialize and nurture relationships, including:
Volunteering at local organizations or events
Getting involved in a church group
Going to a senior living community for programs
Visiting friends or family
Joining a gym or club
Finding (or starting) a group that focuses on similar interests (e.g., knitting, walking, baking, golfing)
No matter how you or your loved one choose to socialize, research shows that the benefits of social interaction are well worth the effort.
Benefits of Being Socially Active
Experts in the senior living and healthcare fields agree that those who retain or discover new social connections experience an overall better quality of life than those who are isolated. Key benefits include:
Enhanced Mental Health Social isolation is one of the leading causes of depression in seniors. Loneliness can easily turn to feelings of worthlessness and despair. On the other hand, socialization can have the opposite effect – helping older adults feel loved and needed as their lives are affirmed by the activities they do and by those with whom they interact. Being around other people, especially if you’re doing something fun or rewarding, helps us keep a positive outlook on life and a healthy mental state.
Sense of Belonging Enjoying the company of others who have similar personalities or interests helps us feel like we belong somewhere. For seniors who may have lost a spouse or a close friend, the need to belong may be more intense. Socializing with others can cultivate new friendships, and doing something meaningful together helps create lasting bonds.
Better Self-Esteem Self-esteem may plummet for seniors who have trouble doing as much as they use to or are alone too often. The more seniors socialize or participate in activities with others, the more they benefit by feeling like they contribute to their community. Any kind of positive interaction with friends, family or neighbors can help us feel confident in ourselves and our abilities.
Improved Physical Health When we have good conversations or do things we love with others, our bodies release health-promoting chemicals that boost the immune system to ward off illness and simply make us feel physically well. Also, socializing promotes an active lifestyle and better nutritional intake. Seniors who are socially isolated are more likely to skip meals, whereas socially active seniors are more likely to share meals with friends and family.
Increased Cognitive Functioning According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, socialization is key to keeping the brain sharp as we age. Having an active social life encourages us to continue learning, observing and responding to the world around us. Conversation and activity are great for exercising the mind and can potentially lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Accountability No matter what our age, we are more likely to keep ourselves well if we have people holding us accountable. Seniors are less likely to develop habits of declining well-being if they’re around others they care about. If an aging woman is meeting her friend for lunch, she will be more encouraged to comb her hair and pick out a nice outfit than if she were staying home all day. Socialization creates reasons to stay well and helps foster a positive state of mind
Purposeful Living Staying social benefits seniors by helping them feel that their lives have purpose. Having somewhere to go, something meaningful to do or people to see helps us get out of bed, excited to face the day. When we cultivate strong relationships with others, we gain a sense of fulfillment, and spending quality time with those we love reminds us why life is worthwhile.
Personalized Support Through Relationship-Based Care
Personal relationships are at the heart of The Homeplace at Midway, encouraging residents to engage with others and lead fulfilling lifestyles. “We use the Best Friends™ Approach to care,” says Cox, “so we get to know our residents for the individuals they are – their preferences, interests, hobbies and life stories. Through these relationships, we design social engagement opportunities based on our residents’ interests. If a new resident is a lifelong baker, we can start up a new baking club, or have her make her favorite dessert to share at dinner.
“At The Homeplace, we understand the importance of socialization for the senior population in our community, so we create a full schedule of events that family caregivers can use to help the loved ones in their care stay social. There’s always something going on at The Homeplace!”
The Homeplace at Midway accommodates residents at all levels of care within four comfortable, homelike cottages. Along with our Assisted Living, Memory Care and two Skilled Nursing Care cottages, the Lucy Simms Lloyd Gathering House — our community cottage — is just a quick walk down the road. Here you can find our Administrative Support offices as well as space for social gatherings, worship services and engaging activities.
And of course, every level of care is delivered with the Best Friends™ Approach, ensuring each resident at The Homeplace at Midway is cared for at a deep, personalized level and their days are filled with meaningful, life-affirming activities.
The Lifestyle You Deserve
Cottage-style living at The Homeplace at Midway reinvents senior living, offering a lifestyle of care and comfort that everyone deserves. The Homeplace has been designed to provide our residents with the most fulfilling lifestyle possible, from our vast array of services and amenities to our delightful dining experiences and engaging activities. We celebrate each person’s individuality by creating a relaxed, customized environment where they are free to express themselves in the comfort of their home.
Contact us today to learn more about the many unique advantages of The Homeplace at Midway!