Staying Social as a Senior
One unforeseen side effect of aging is the diminishing of social networks, which means there are fewer people in our lives. With retirement, the social interactions provided by work slowly fade away.
Parents may have passed away, families may have already moved away and friends may move or pass away. This gradual erosion may not be noticeable at first but there may come a day when people realize that they are much more alone than they once were.
It may take a specific event to bring this loss into focus: such as being widowed, going through a serious illness, giving up a driver’s license – or perhaps just a yawning emptiness under the Christmas Tree. Less mobility and health challenges can make it harder to develop new relationships to replace those which are gone.
The ever-accelerating pace of our lives also makes it increasingly difficult to maintain those relationships that remain, especially with family members who are still in the workplace and juggling multiple demands on their time.
But social isolation is not an automatic by-product of the senior years. Nor should be it swept aside as unimportant. Studies show a strong correlation between maintaining social contacts and maintaining good health.
Regular interaction with friends or family encourages a healthier lifestyle with more activities, often including more physical activity. If there is someone else at the dining table, a senior is less likely to adopt the stereotypical tea-and-toast diet of the lonely and isolated.
As we age, it is vital to keep renewing our social networks. Options include joining churches and clubs, becoming involved in hobbies, taking courses or re-connecting with previously estranged family.
Although it is not a human social interaction, another choice is acquiring a pet. Studies show that pet owners also benefit from the social interaction with their animals.
One of the fastest ways to acquire an immediate community is by moving to a seniors’ apartment, community, or retirement residence.
This option often includes nutritional meal services and other support services to help seniors better maintain their health while enjoying life with new friends and new activities.