If you have a Senior loved one who is a resident of an assisted living facility, your primary concerns may be regarding their health and safety. There are many known factors that contribute to healthy aging such as regular exercise, quality sleep, and a balanced diet. Each is essential at every stage of life. For seniors, friendships also play a vital role in aging. The need for companionship, love, and support is something that every person desires — this need does not diminish as we grow older. Friendship is an essential part of personal happiness and having a healthy social life is particularly important for seniors.
Research has found that social support can play a significant role in overall health as people age. Consistent socializing helps seniors stay emotionally, mentally, and physically fit. Spending time with others reduces the potential for social isolation in the elderly. Without enriching interaction, seniors can be at risk for mental health conditions such as depression. Isolation may also increase the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. Some studies have also shown that loneliness can correlate with high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
Maintaining a strong social network and meaningful relationships are critical for seniors’ overall health and wellness. Fortunately, support for elderly persons can be found in many places including senior centers, assisted living facilities, and adult day care centers. These services can provide positive social support that helps elderly persons combat loneliness and isolation.
The bottom line is: friends are essential. In this article, we will discuss the many reasons why senior friendships are so important to healthy aging.
How Friends Influence Our Lifestyle
We become a reflection of who we surround ourselves with. Surrounding yourself with friends who share common interests, beliefs, and approaches to life can positively affect your life. If your friends enjoy exercising regularly, you are more likely to participate in the same activities as well. Especially in the later stages of life, it is important to find people who will keep you motivated to stay active and encourage healthy behaviors.
The Physical Benefits of Socialization for Older Adults
Elderly people with a fulfilling social life can also prevent a number of physical ailments from negatively impacting their overall health. Seniors who maintain an active physical lifestyle with their friends can be rewarded in terms of improved physical health as they age. Some of the greatest physical benefits of socialization for seniors include:
- Reduced stress and lower blood pressure: Socially active seniors are able to handle stress better. Meaningful friendships can provide them with a strong support system during difficult times. This also leads to increases in cardiovascular health and an improved immune system.
- Less anxiety: Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations, however, aging adults often face significant changes that can contribute to the development or escalation of anxiety. By creating a more positive and supportive environment for aging adults, they can cope with anxiety more effectively.
- Longer lifespan: Data shows that being socially active can reduce the progression of declining health. This is because socially engaged seniors are more likely to actively choose to maintain their health as opposed to their more isolated, less-social peers.
- Reduced risk of depression: Seniors who feel isolated may face a higher risk of depression. The more social engagements they have, the more likely they are to take care of themselves and maintain proper hygiene. These healthy habits are key factors to fighting off depression.
- Increased physical fitness: There is no doubt that exercising can be more fun with friends, especially for seniors. Participating in physical activity helps elderly people keep their blood flowing and increase muscle coordination.
- Greater self-esteem: Being a part of a social community can give seniors a better sense of purpose and belonging. Friendships often foster feelings of belonging, confidence, and inclusiveness, which results in a greater sense of self-esteem and a more meaningful life.
The Cognitive Benefits of Meaningful Senior Friendships
People spend their lives building a network of personal relationships that they can depend on in older age. The term “social capital” refers to the types of personal connections that establish trust and participation for individuals. For elderly people, social capital tends to decline due to reduced contact with former colleagues, deaths of friends and family members, and loved ones moving away. The loss of social contact can negatively impact their mental and physical well-being.
Social isolation often contributes to a decline in mental health in elderly people, which can negatively affect their cognitive health as well. Lonely individuals may be more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of age-related neuropathology. Research has found that those who felt lonely were about 1.6 times more likely to develop dementia.
Many seniors assume that their cognitive health will naturally decline with age, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Human beings tend to have higher levels of cognitive function with increased social interaction. Seniors who make an effort to maintain an active social life keeps them stimulated, mentally sharp, and intellectually engaged.
Benefits of Senior Living Communities for Socialization
Moving to an independent or assisted living community is a great way to increase your social circle. At Glen Park, we value the principles of superior care, excellent service, responsiveness, and unwavering respect for life. It is our top priority to ensure that our seniors enjoy their lives to the fullest. We have a very active senior community; residents soon find friends who support one another through the ups and downs of life.
We also provide various types of enriching activities that are designed to nurture the body, mind, and spirit. With a higher self-awareness and quality of life, an individual can reduce the risks of mental and physical health problems as they age.