As social creatures, we depend on other human beings for our very survival. This starts at the beginning of our lives. At birth human babies are among the most dependent mammals on earth. We depend on human relationships throughout our lives to fulfill our needs for love and intimacy, education and careers, spirituality and emotional bonding.
As we age, many of our social outlets can diminish. When we retire we likely will lose touch with many of our coworkers. Our children grow and leave home, often moving far away from us. We lose our parents and then even friends and peers. Perhaps we even lose our spouse, which can really change the landscape of our lives. We may experience less mobility, making it difficult to get out. Most of these circumstances are out of our control, but there are many good reasons, both physical and emotional, to make efforts toward re-growing those social networks into retirement and beyond.
Here are eight scientifically supported reasons as identified by “The Seniors Digest” (brightstarcare.com) why a good social life as you age is important for your health.
1) A stronger immune system
2) Moderated blood pressure
3) Improved brain health and memory
4) Physical activity
5) Reduced depression
6) Reduced impact of chronic pain
7) Improved nutritional intake
8) Improvement of our primary relationships (such as marriage and family)
But knowing the importance of socializing and doing it are two different things. It can be hard to find ways to make it happen. Many of us don’t know where to begin. So, what are some good ways to stay in or get back in the social game?
A good suggestion is to join a group of some sort, such as a book or gardening club. Something of interest to you. If you have trouble getting out, you might host the club at your own home. Or seek out someone who can transport you. Even if you only meet once a month, you can touch base more often than that to discuss the next meeting or plan events. Today many people even participate in on-line book clubs.
Also, the Viva Health Cafe hosts a number of activities throughout the year. Everything from healthy cooking classes and Bingo to topical sessions about estate planning, diabetes education and so much more. The Viva Health Cafes are located in Birmingham, Hoover, the Shops at Grand River in Leeds, Montgomery and Mobile. Visit www.VivaHealthCafes.com for upcoming events.
If you are physically active, you could become involved in a sports group or club. Most communities have gymnasiums where you could get connected to a running, swimming, or tennis club. Many of these, such as the YMCA, are reasonably priced and offer a lot of classes for all levels. Most offer senior discounts as well.
Some retired people opt to get a part-time job, if they are able. This provides a wonderful opportunity for socialization, especially if the job is in some sort of retail setting. Sharing information with people, even if it’s small talk, can not only improve cognitive function through learning but can also improve your self esteem. You will likely learn that you have something to say that others want to hear!
A lot of communities have centers with programs geared for socializing. Some have senior centers or centers with senior programs. Many will even offer transportation for those who are no longer driving or have mobility limitations. You may find a class to participate in where you can learn a new skill. There are even programs available that are meant for companionship. Someone to come into your home and visit or play cards. Finding them may be as simple as placing a call to your town hall, or asking your primary care providers for suggestions.
Finally, one of the easiest ways to socialize is to nurture and invest time in the relationships you already have. Relationships take effort, but the rewards can make the time spent well worth it. Maybe you become a phone or email pal to an old friend or family member. Is there someone local to you who would enjoy a lunch date once a week or month? Someone to stay connected with on a regular basis. Being connected to others gives us a sense of purpose which can really enhance our lives.
Yes, humans beings are social creatures who need each other. When all is said and done, staying socially connected can play a large role in both our physical and emotional health as we age. An effort has to be made, but the rewards are great. So let’s pick up that phone and make it a date!