As seniors age, social support plays a significant role in their overall health–but at the same time, access to a social support system can become more challenging during the elder years. Spending time with friends and family members can boost quality of life, as well as physical and mental health, so it’s important not to give up seeking social connections. The right advisors can help you explore options that fit into your lifestyle.

The Importance of “Social Capital” For Seniors

“Social Capital” refers to personal connections that build trust and support engagement. For seniors, social engagement is especially important as they go through important life changes and deal with illness and injury.

Group-of-seniors-enjoying-lunch-together

Unfortunately, seniors’ social capital can be negatively impacted by:

  • Retirement, leading to reduced contact with former work colleagues
  • Deaths of friends and family members
  • Loved ones moving away
  • Chronic illness
  • Hospitalization

Loss of social contacts can have a direct impact on seniors’ mental and physical well-being, and require active effort to increase socialization.
On the other hand, social capital can encourage healthy behaviors, like visiting neighbors, refraining from smoking, and attending medical appointments.

The Health Benefits of Socialization For Seniors

Older adults with an active social life tend to avoid many of the physical, cognitive, and emotional difficulties experienced by isolated seniors. Benefits of socialization for seniors include:

  • Reduced stress, which leads to improved cardiovascular health and stronger immune system
  • Increased longevity
  • Increased physical activity, leading to physical, mental, and cognitive benefits
  • Reduced risk of depression caused by isolation and loneliness
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved self-esteem and sense of worth
  • Sense of belonging
  • Increased accountability
  • Purposeful living
  • Access to a support system
  • Decreased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Group-of-seniors-socializing

Obstacles to a Healthy Social Life For Seniors

Some seniors face more obstacles than others when pursuing an active social life. These obstacles may include:

  • Physical illness or injury
  • Loss of a spouse or significant other
  • Geographic isolation
  • Mobility problems
  • Real or perceived cognitive decline
  • Low availability of family members to assist with social activities

Tips For Remaining Socially Active

Seniors can take the following steps to remain socially engaged with others:

  • Build and maintain healthy relationships with grandchildren and loved ones
  • Do volunteer work at local nonprofit organizations and homeless shelters
  • Utilize community resources such as senior centers
  • Connect with religious organizations
  • Move to a retirement community to connect with other seniors, participate in activities, and access socialization opportunities
  • Organize social activities on your own and invite local seniors who might be feeling isolated or lonely
  • Maintain a sense of purpose by caring for a pet, attending church, or pursuing hobbies and interests
  • Ask family and friends to provide transportation to and from social activities
  • Sign up for senior game nights at the local community center
  • Join a book club
  • Connect with old friends on social media
  • Make video calls to catch up with family and friends living far away
  • Adopt a pet
  • Invite friends and family over for dinner or brunch

Eventually, seniors may need to transition into a local senior living community for greater access to care and social opportunities. Family members will need to do their research on local facilities to find the one that’s right for their loved one. We’re here to help with this process at every step.

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