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The Vital Importance of Socialization for Older Adults

According to experts, senior adults who are active and engaged socially often extend their lives and their enjoyment of life by years. However, for many older adults, the loss of friends and acquaintances over time causes them to become alone and isolated – a situation that can seriously affect their physical and emotional well-being.

While assisted living communities are primarily known for providing the support individuals need to maintain their independence, one of the most valuable benefits of assisted living over living alone is the wealth of daily socialization opportunities and the sense of “community” they provide.

In addition to being among individuals who often share similar interests and experiences, assisted living residents enjoy a variety of programs and activities that promote valuable social interaction and camaraderie – essential ingredients for overall well-being.

Not surprisingly, assisted living is the fastest growing form of senior living today.

Why Socialization Is so Important to Health and Well-Being

Psychologists and gerontologists (i.e. physicians specializing in the health of older persons) tell us that maintaining social ties to others and participating in group activities can be essential to the overall health of senior adults. In fact, there have been several studies that have demonstrated that seniors who enjoy an active social life are happier and less depressed than those who lack opportunities for socialization.

In the article, “The Importance of Socialization at Senior Living Communities,” author Elizabeth Bemis, MA says, “Most people understand the importance of encouraging young children to socialize, but it's easy to overlook the importance of socialization for older adults. Human nature leads us to crave fulfilling relationships with other people. As we age, however, life circumstances may push us toward loneliness and isolation unless we take proactive steps to cultivate new relationships.”

Ms. Bemis asserts that personal relationships and regular interactions with others can make a major difference in an older adult’s quality of life, and she highlights several key benefits associated with socialization for older adults. These include:
  • A Sense of Purpose and Feelings of Belonging – The advantages of active socializing can enhance an older loved one's quality of life considerably and add years to their expected lifespan. Senior adults are able to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships when they are engaged in activities with others who enjoy similar interests.
  • Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence – Joining a group of people with the same interests makes life more fun. Volunteering, working or looking forward to activities you enjoy can provide a reason to get up and go with a smile. Feeling helpful and needed often makes a huge difference in anyone's life, regardless of their age. 
  • Improved Physical and Mental Health – Spending time positively engaged with others is life-affirming and raises self-confidence. Keeping up with current news and trends does as well. Anything that boosts self-esteem and self-confidence can contribute to a positive mental outlook, which in turn encourages the release of "good" hormones.

These health-promoting chemicals help the body to fight off illness and disease while physically making us feel better, too. Additionally, regular interaction and engagement with peers helps to keep the mind sharp.

The Damaging Impact of Social Isolation and Loneliness

In stark contrast, living alone can limit socialization opportunities and frequently leads to a more rapid decline among older Americans. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression caused by isolation can increase an individual’s chance of suffering a stroke by an incredible 73 percent. Furthermore, limited social interaction can lead to a decrease in one’s self-esteem and emotional status.

A story in USA Today, “Feeling lonely? It may increase risk of early death,” reported on the results of a recent study by the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive & Social Neuroscience. According to the study, researchers found that people who feel consistently lonely have a 14 percent higher risk of premature death than those who do not.

According to psychologist John Cacioppo, Director of the aforementioned Center, "Loneliness is a risk factor for early death beyond what can be explained by poor health behavior. Feeling lonely isn't only unhappy; it's unsafe."

The study concluded that feeling lonely and isolated from others can lead to several unhealthy outcomes, including:

  • Less restful, restorative sleep
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Increased levels of the unhealthy stress hormone cortisol
  • Increased rates of depression
  • A decreased sense of living a meaningful life

Director Cacioppo adds, “Some people are happy to be alone, but most thrive in social situations where they enjoy support and rapport with others. People underestimate the importance of sharing good times with friends and family."

Live Healthily and Happily

Says Trisha McClanahan, Lifestyle Specialist, “As a leading senior living community, we at Travanse Living™ understand the value of socialization and well care in the lives of senior adults. Our award-winning VIVA!SM lifestyle fosters purpose and offers a whole new way of aging healthfully and happily. VIVA!SM programming provides a wealth of opportunities to enrich lives through social engagement, educational and spiritual pursuits found in a wide range of programs, as well as through activities and other events. We also offer the chance for people to share their skills, talents and passions with others through resident-led activities.”


We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your personal experiences with us. Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

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