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The Science of Social Engagement and Healthy Aging

social

How Being Social Helps Promote Brain Health

Numerous studies have found that remaining socially active as you age reduces the risks of dementia. Being surrounded by friends and loved ones keeps an aging adult’s mind active and sharp. When a senior withdraws or stays socially isolated 2, their brain sits unchallenged in an almost dreamlike state. Being around other social seniors can instill good habits as well. An aging adult will feel more motivated to remain active, maintain physical health, take care of their personal appearance, and engage in intellectual activities if they’re around others partaking in the same positive habits.

Family

A senior’s family is their most natural resource for staying social. If you have a senior in your family, coordinate with siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles and arrange frequent visits to your aging family member’s place of residence. This is particularly important if your senior is living alone or in an assisted living facility. In addition to providing entertainment for the senior, visits and phone calls can also give family members a clearer picture of their senior’s health.

Grandchildren and Healthy Longevity

Interacting with grandchildren can have an especially positive effect on healthy aging among senior citizens. One study  even found that seniors who occasionally care for their grandchildren drastically improved their chances at healthy longevity, living up to five years longer than those who didn’t. Being around grandchildren can also elevate a senior’s mood and give them an improved sense of responsibility. This allows for an increased feeling of self-worth, which can help prevent depression and other illnesses that negatively affect senior mental health.

Caregivers and friendships go a long way, but there’s nothing quite like the positive impact a family member can have while visiting an elder loved one.

Group Activities for Seniors

Meeting new people and socializing out in the world away from where the aging adult resides is a way to support a healthy aging mind and promote the senior’s well being.

Best Locations for Senior Group Fun

There are many different types of locations that either specialize in senior activities or are home to volunteer groups who organize and tailor elder-appropriate endeavors. These places include senior centers, YMCAs, JCCs, health clubs, gyms, schools, religious centers (churches, synagogues, mosques, etc), meetup.com, and your local library. Take some time to research what is available in your area, and encourage the senior you care for to enroll in group activities that pique their interest.

Social Activities for Seniors

In a previous post, we provided some suggestions on how seniors can stay physically active as they age. To refresh, good social outing options where aging adults can get mild exercise include yoga, tai chi, mini-golf, group walks, and bowling. As importantly, there are plenty of options that stimulate the mind in group settings. Many of the aforementioned locations offer educational classes on topics that interest seniors as well.

Debate clubs and political groups can also keep an aging adult’s mind active. Working on arts and crafts with other seniors is another fulfilling experience. Recommended crafts include knitting, sewing, drawing, painting, and even helping a grandchild with their coloring book. Book clubs are another stimulating group activity for seniors. Book clubs give the elderly a very achievable and engaging task to complete. Additionally, it will provide seniors with a chance to speak with others about their experience with the reading and engage in some beneficial critical thinking.

Transportation Services

As we get older, our ability to drive ourselves from place to place begins to decline 4, and studies show that seniors who lack the ability to transport themselves are far more likely to miss trips to the doctor, not stock their house with acceptable amounts of groceries, and isolate themselves. A way for seniors to turn this negative into a positive is to enroll in transportation services.

Paying for these services is certainly a possible challenge to consider, though Medicaid will often pay for non-emergency transportation. It is, however, often well worth the money from safety and social perspectives. In regards to safety, the likelihood of a driver being killed in an automobile accident begins increasing at the age of 70 5. Socially, the senior gets to get out of their house, interact with their driver, and certain transportation services offer vans that take multiple seniors to the grocery store at the same time.

Resources:

  1. http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_remain_socially_active.asp
  2. http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-11-2008/friends-are-good-for-your-brain.html
  3. https://www.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/en/media/2016/12/helping-pays-off-people-who-care-for-others-live-longer
  4. https://www.agingcare.com/articles/finding-transportation-services-for-seniors-104572.htm
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/older_adult_drivers/index.html
  6. https://www.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/en/media/2016/12/helping-pays-off-people-who-care-for-others-live-longer

 

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