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The Importance of Socialization for Seniors’ Mental Health

Senior socialization

A substantial number of studies point to the dangers of social isolation and loneliness and the importance of socialization for seniors. Unfortunately, an active social life can become increasingly difficult to maintain with age. According to one report, 24% of Americans age 65 and older are considered socially isolated. But what can be done about it? If you’re concerned about an older family member’s socialization, here are some factors — and suggestions —  to keep in mind:

Why Does Social Interaction Matter?

You probably have an instinctive understanding that social ties are an important contributor to mental health, and research supports that hunch:

Loneliness is associated with a 40% increase in the risk of developing dementia.

Social isolation and loneliness are associated with depression and a diminished feeling of well-being.

Pleasant social interactions can boost cognitive performance on the day of the interaction and over the course of several following days.

A wide and varied social circle — one that includes friends, family, acquaintances, service providers and strangers — is associated with more physical activity, less time spent sitting around, more positive mood and fewer negative feelings.

Social capital — loosely defined as respect, connection, and trust among people in a community — allows seniors to maintain productive, independent and fulfilling lives.

Social Activity and Aging

People of any age can struggle with social isolation and loneliness, but seniors face additional obstacles that can make it difficult to enjoy an active social life.

Retirement can mean diminished social contact if work was a primary source of interaction.

The loss of loved ones can lead to a shrinking social circle.

Real or perceived cognitive decline may discourage seniors from pursuing social opportunities.

Physical ailments can make seniors less inclined to seek social interaction.

Decreased mobility may make it more difficult to maintain social connections.

Inability to continue driving may increase isolation.

Family members may be busy or live too far away to offer consistent social support.

Supporting Socialization in Seniors

There are many ways you can help an aging loved one enjoy a more active social life. You can foster a strong relationship with grandchildren. You might include your loved one in the social activities that you organize for yourself. Or encourage their participation in clubs, church activities and local senior organizations.

Of course, as bustling hubs of social activity, senior living communities can be the perfect solution for a senior who needs more social opportunities. Organized social events, classes, common spaces, clubs, and dining venues give seniors ample occasions to engage in planned or spontaneous social activities. Being more socially active, residents can enjoy many benefits, including:

Improved happiness. Having a wider social circle and meeting new friends is likely to make seniors (as well as people of all ages) happier and more relaxed. Plus it can reduce stress and help them cope with life challenges.

A strong support network. Neighbors, new friends, and staff members in the senior living community can help create the social capital that fosters seniors’ well-being.

A feeling of purpose. With people to meet, classes to engage in and events to attend, senior living residents enjoy the mental health benefits that active engagement can provide.

Accountability. When seniors are isolated, they may be inclined to neglect self-care practices, such as brushing their hair or changing clothes. The social engagement in a senior living community can provide the impetus they need to take care of themselves.

An Active Social Life at Oaks Senior Living

Built into every level of living at Oaks Senior Living — from independent living to higher levels of long-term care like assisted living and memory care — are opportunities to be socially active. In independent living, residents can take advantage of the maintenance-free lifestyle so they have more time to be as social and engaged as they want. In assisted living, residents who need a helping hand with daily activities like dressing or bathing can get the support they need so they’re able to enjoy all the social opportunities our community offers. Memory care provides the security and support residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia need to feel comfortable while providing ample opportunities for stimulating social activity.

If you’d like to learn more about memory care — or the Oaks Senior Living independent living or assisted living communities — contact us. We’d love to answer any questions you may have about the importance of socialization for seniors, and we can tell you more about how our family-operated community and person-centered care can foster your loved one’s social well-being.

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