When the Beatles wrote the song “With A Little Help From My Friends,” they probably were not thinking about the benefits of social activities for seniors. Although it’s true that we are more likely to thrive throughout all stages of life when we have good friends by our side, there are very specific advantages of participating in social activities as we age.
The flip side is that social isolation is a dangerous side effect of aging, which can sometimes have grave consequences. Everyday Health found that loneliness increases the risk of early death by 45 percent and ups your chances of developing dementia by 64 percent, as social isolation can have a debilitating effect on cognitive function.
So, it seems as though the Beatles may have been on to something.
The Benefits of Social Activities for Elderly People
Socializing is a “critically important contributor to good health and longevity” according to an article published in New York Times, “Social Interaction Is Critical For Mental and Physical Health.” The article cites various scientific studies that support the hypothesis that social interconnectedness is a vital component to aging well.
To summarize the overarching results of all the studies: “People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain.” Both stress and inflammation have been recognized by medical professionals as being major contributors to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and arthritis.
But research has also showed that social activities for seniors don’t just ward off negative effects of aging. Social activities for elderly people can also create positive health effects, such as:
- Not smoking cigarettes
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating a more balanced diet
- Avoiding excessive weight gain
- Not abusing drugs and/or alcohol
Socially connected people also exhibit better mental health than those who are isolated or have a poor social life. Dr. Emily Sepala, with the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, told the New York Times that “people who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”
Find Senior Citizen Social Groups Near You
It’s not always easy to make new friends and get involved in social activities for seniors. Friends move away, fall ill or pass away and the thought of making new friends so late in life can be daunting. But there are plenty of ways that you can find like-minded people near you in order to get the conversation started. Here are some senior citizen social groups to consider in your neighborhood:
- Community Centers. Community Centers and Senior Centers are wonderful places for seniors to meet other seniors. Many neighborhood centers offer a wide variety of programs to choose, from exercise classes, to painting classes, to dance classes, you’re likely to find a class that appeals to your interests and make a friend or two in the process.
- Religious Programs. Your place of worship can actually be a great boost to your social life, especially as a senior. Many churches, synagogues and mosques organize different social activities for seniors that provide a safe and open environment for you to meet new people.
- Online. Technology makes it easier than ever to pursue an interest or hobby with strangers. Online forums, such as Meetup’s Senior Events Map, are able to quickly identify people near you who are interested in similar activities. Whether you want to start up a 60+ book club, try new restaurants, or exercise with a new buddy, digital platforms provide a wide variety of social activities for elderly people in an easy-to-navigate way.
You Don’t Have To Be Alone, Even If You Live Alone
Loneliness can be overpowering at times when you live alone, however, you don’t have to submit to loneliness when you have a Medical Guardian medical alert device. Although medical alert devices often boast of being wonderful in a medical emergency, they can also be used for non-emergency purposes. Sometimes it just helps to hear a compassionate voice on the other end of the line.