Whether we claim to be introverted, extroverted, or even a combination of the two, we all need some level of connection and socialization. It is simply a part of human nature and may even lead to improved well-being.
At Senior Solutions Management Group, we understand the benefits of leading a socially active life and the importance of building relationships. Friends and family can support you through tough times, but they can also provide you with a plethora of benefits - some you may not even realize – that contribute to healthy aging.
However, relationship building and socializing with peers can become more challenging as we age due to a number of factors. But choosing to live in a vibrant, all-inclusive senior living community can make all the difference!
Senior Solutions Management Group is proud to oversee all-inclusive senior living communities in Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Louisiana. We make it easy, convenient, and simple to stay connected with friends and family while providing endless opportunities to foster new relationships. We are sharing the importance of socialization for older adults and how our communities can help you and your loved ones stay connected!
Why Relationship Building & Socialization Matter
It is easy to think that physical well-being is the only way to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. However, studies have shown that mental health is just as valuable as your physical health. Socialization is an important aspect of maintaining your mental health as feelings of loneliness can come with adverse side effects, such as depression.
According to a recent study, people who have larger social networks typically have fewer bad habits and are less prone to developing new diseases in their life, such as type 2 diabetes. Socializing can also help older adults to:
Alleviate Feelings of Stress
High amounts of stress can lead to a number of health issues, so it is important to find ways that can help reduce these levels. Connecting with close friends and family is one way to do this.
When your body experiences stress, a hormone called cortisol is released. “Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of vital processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response. It also has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress (You and Your Hormones).”
Too much cortisol over an extended amount of time, however, can lead to additional health issues. These include:
- Weight gain,
- High blood pressure,
- Mood swings,
- And feelings of anxiety and depression.
Luckily, socialization and relationship building can regulate the amount of cortisol in your body and reduce stress levels. According to HelpGuide, “face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response. It’s nature’s natural stress reliever.”
Connecting with close friends and family can create a calming atmosphere, allowing you to let go of your stress as you relax into the environment. While health concerns and COVID social distancing may limit your face-to-face opportunities, video chat applications allow loved ones to virtually stay connected, delivering emotions you can’t experience over the phone or through a text message.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, “dozens of studies have shown that people who have social support from family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.” While this may seem like a strange concept, research shows that socialization and connecting with close friends and family members can increase a person’s longevity.
All aspects of our health are connected. When we feel happy and energized, we feel more empowered to conquer the day, leading to staying more active. On the other hand, feelings of depression and anxiety can inhibit us from participating in the activities and social events that we once enjoyed.
Socialization improves both our mental and physical health, leading to a longer lifespan and healthy aging. When people socialize, they tend to be more active. Perhaps they go on a walk with a friend or have a gym buddy. Even if they stay home and talk over coffee, this is still more active than sitting alone at home.
Improve Self-Esteem and Provide a Sense of Purpose
Even if we do not admit it, what other people think about us has an impact on how we feel about ourselves. We judge ourselves based on how other people see us. This can either be good or bad for our self-esteem. Fortunately, spending time with a close group of friends helps us to feel accepted, which boosts confidence and self-esteem.
Additionally, social interaction helps to provide a sense of purpose in our lives. We all want to feel important and needed, but after retirement, many individuals feel a reduced sense of purpose. Socialization can change that. Attending social engagements and other gatherings, either with friends or family, gives individuals a reason to interact with other people and can help them to feel included, also giving their self-esteem a boost.
Additional Benefits of Socialization
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduced risk of isolation and loneliness
- Improved cognitive functioning
- Lowered risk of depression and anxiety
- Increased physical activity
Quality Over Quantity
It can be hard to maintain a well-balanced social life, but it is a crucial element to your health and overall sense of belonging.
The National Institute on Aging has gathered information from several studies that have shown strong correlations between social interaction and health. Socialization can be as simple as attending family gatherings or going out once a week and visiting loved ones. It’s important to note that you don’t have to be a socialite who attends gatherings or social events daily.
One study found that people, particularly older adults, can add years to their lives by participating in leisure activities — including volunteering, shopping, gardening, or playing games. In fact, researchers found, social activities can lower the risk of mortality as much as physical exercise does. The best way to reap the benefits is to make sure you’re comfortable and feel socially active and engaged. Not everyone who appears lonely feels lonely; it’s all about your needs and your social desires.
Socialization can be simple, and you do not have to worry about making tons of friends to see the positive impacts. It is about the quality of the relationships that you build that matters, not the quantity. Someone who has 50 acquaintances could be much lonelier than someone who has three close friendships.
Risk Factors of Social Isolation
While at times it can be challenging to meet new people, it is certainly beneficial for your health and well-being. Interestingly enough, relationship building is a natural instinct for humans, but it can be challenging to find the opportunities to connect with others. As we age, it is common to experience changes in our lifestyle that can increase our risk of becoming socially isolated. These risk factors could include:
Just like everything in our lives, change is inevitable. It is how we embrace these changes that matters. One lifestyle shift that older adults can experience is decreased mobility. If you or someone you know has limited mobility, focus on exploring new interests and hobbies that are less physically demanding but still provide enjoyment. By doing so, you will discover new ways to stay socially connected and engaged!
Limited Access to Reliable Transportation
Unreliable or inconsistent transportation is a leading risk factor for social isolation. When you are dependent on family members, friends, or public transportation to get you where you need or want to go, it can be difficult to make plans.
Instead of missing out on social gatherings due to a lack of transportation, do not be afraid to invite your friends and family over to your home. This way, you can still connect with loved ones without having to worry about how you will get to your destination.
If you’re having difficulty finding new friends or acquaintances, we encourage you to research local groups and social events in your area. Your local senior center is likely to yield plenty of opportunities! These places typically host a variety of support groups, hobby-related clubs, and educational classes that are targeted and designed for older adults, allowing you to connect with like-minded individuals.
Stay Connected Virtually
Whether due to the COVID-19 pandemic or because of long-distance loved ones, sometimes you have to think outside of the box to find new ways to connect. Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype are free platforms that enable individuals to connect via video calling. Even though you may not be able to physically be in the same space as your friends and family members, these platforms allow you to see one another face-to-face.
Use these apps for more than just chatting. If you have a celebration coming up, create a virtual party! Plan ahead and prepare games, food, and more. Just because you are separated by distance does not mean it has to feel like it.
Explore Senior Living
Additionally, senior living communities could be your solution to creating an active and healthy social life. Communities, like Senior Solutions Management Group communities, have many opportunities for residents to connect with one another without ever having to leave the campus.
The activities, events, and layout of these communities are designed to make socialization and relationship building easy and convenient for residents and their families.
At Senior Solutions Management Group, we know the importance of building relationships. That is why all of our all-inclusive senior living communities, throughout Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina, provide ample social events for residents and guests. If you are looking for a senior living community to call home, we invite you to explore our communities!
Updated: October 2021