When was the last time you took a scenic walk with a friend? Learned a new skill in a group setting? Social interaction and companionship play significant roles in mental and physical health as we age. Studies have found that people who have fulfilling relationships sleep better, live happier, and thrive longer, while loneliness and social isolation symptoms increase health risks.
There are many benefits of social activities for the elderly, so keep your social circle strong and encourage others to do so as well. Below are five ways to reduce social isolation and improve longevity:
Join a Senior-Friendly Fitness Center
Staying socially active is an essential component to avoiding social isolation. Staying physically active in your autumn years has endless benefits, including:
- A sharper mind. Group exercise can help keep us sharp and engaged, which can prevent and postpone diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
- Improved physical and mental health. No surprise here. Regular physical activity, when paired with smart food choices, can improve mood and delay/prevent certain diseases.
- Lessen pain and reduce recovery time. Physical activity can help stave off certain diseases and completely prevent others. It also helps reduce recovery time from illness or injury, while lessening chronic pain.
If a regular gym seems a bit intimidating, consider joining a senior fitness center, or opt for low-impact group classes at your neighborhood gym. Beyond the obvious physical impact, the connections you make with people and the relationships you build can help achieve a state of total wellness, no matter your age.
Take a Class or Join a Group
It’s important to get involved with peers. Do you enjoy gardening or golfing? Reading or dancing? Meeting up with others on a regular basis is a fine way to meet new people and enjoy experiences with those who share your interests. Walking groups provide a great opportunity to get outside and stay engaged with others. Book clubs are another way to keep your mind sharp. Plus, you will meet plenty of like-minded people. You could even sign up for a painting or cooking class. Or, you could finally learn to salsa!
Many community centers and colleges offer classes designed for seniors. These classes will help you attain new knowledge and put it into practice – expanding your mind in the process. You can try anything from sewing and art to history and creative writing. Now is the time to forget those regrets and take one some new experiences.
If you have some skills of your own that you’ve obtained over the years and you want to put them to use, consider teaching your own classes! Look for community centers or schools who may be looking to add some new classes.
Stay in Touch with Family and Neighbors
When you can find a little free time, don’t hesitate to reach out to loved ones. Take a grandchild out for lunch, or ask a neighbor if they could use a hand – or a shoulder. It never hurts to stay in touch. Try to go out of your way to maintain relationships, as many people fail to stay proactive.
Having a hard time reaching out the old fashioned way? Try reaching out via social media. Or surprise someone with a FaceTime or Skype call.
If you don’t have family or neighbors to engage with, be sure to have conversations with those you see every day. The baristas at the coffee shop. The pharmacist. The person at the grocery store register. Every interaction is a chance to make someone’s day. And in turn, you could make your own too!
Volunteer in the Community
Volunteering is a priceless and ageless way to serve a greater purpose and engage with people from all walks of life. In no other setting can you work so closely and passionately with people, young and old, and work toward a common goal without any expectation of personal return – beyond the value of giving.
Reach out to schools, community centers, animal shelters, libraries, places of worship, and area non-profit organizations. Try to seek out opportunities that will challenge and empower you to make a real difference.
Ready to go back to work? There’s no better time than now. Working part-time as a retiree is a great way to stay engaged and involved. As an added bonus, you can stash a few bucks away for rainy days.
Here are a few options:
- Become a tutor
- Apply to become a teacher’s aide
- Work in customer service
- Find a retail job
- Be a pet sitter or dog walker
- Try bookkeeping or medical billing
- Apply your career skills as a consultant
- Work special events and try seasonal gigs
There are so many benefits of social activities for the elderly and even more wonderful ways to stay socially active; sometimes it’s a matter of just putting yourself out there and finding ways to explore and enjoy your favorite hobbies in a more social setting.