Common factors that promote healthy aging are exercising, eating and sleeping right, and having a right mental attitude towards aging itself. However, most seniors will not have the privilege of having a strong social support system. As you get older, things inevitably change for one’s social circles, and the people that you grew up with, be it childhood friends, family, co-workers, etc. are no longer as available as they were, either because they’ve moved to different parts of their life, or don’t have time to connect with you, or have passed on.
Several studies indicate that there is a correlation between social relationships and health, and that social isolation is a major risk factor for mortality and morbidity. Loneliness has often been linked to a higher risk of cognitive decline, dementia and depression, and bodily illnesses like heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. Our base instinct as human beings are to be social because we rely on cooperation to survive and thrive. Even the most routine tasks of interacting with people is a maze of interpersonal relationships. When that instinct is not utilized, we lose reason to become motivated and develop ourselves, and thus adversely affect our health.
That is why as we grow older; it is imperative that we continuously form friendships and surround ourselves with friends. As relationships evolve over time, staying connected with friends usually means more opportunities to socialize and more ways to stay involved with your community. Doing so keeps the brain active and engaged. As mentioned previously we are social creatures, and keeping ourselves social can continuously develop our cognitive and emotional functions. Building social networks and participating in them keeps the mind agile, flexible and motivates you to continue a lifetime of learning and feeling.
There is another added bonus to doing social activities with your friends: it makes you feel cared about and encouraged by others. In this regard, empathy is practiced by both parties to make each other feel respected, protected, and purposeful, both sides of this are important. You are seen as another human being that deserves care and love just like everyone else. For example, if you are dealing with the loss of a loved one or dealing with limited mobility, your group of friends may also be is experiencing the same thing or something similar. They can give you advice, and also provide comfort based on their own experiences in dealing with it.
During a time of change, our friends can serve as a support system for you, especially if they are around the same age as you. Although you may be older and wiser than you used to be, no one holds all the answers to the world. By connecting with people in your elderly years, you are connecting with people that have lived through various experiences and have stories to tell. So, allow yourself to be open to learning new things and getting to know about people from different sides of life, and you’ll get a fresh perspective, and newer lessons in life out of it.
Being socially active is essential for maintaining cognitive function, but it is also important to keep yourself enriched through continuous social engagement with others around you. As a result of having a strong social circle you will also be motivated and dedicated to taking care of yourself so that you can continue regular social activities with them, and remain productive and independent in your senior years.
So do some volunteer work, take up a new hobby, join a club in your community, do a part time job, use social media, the possibilities are endless when it comes to making and forming new connections! Don’t be an old coot who stays in a rut. Get out of it, and stay engaged with your fellow humans and you’ll remember all the more reasons to lead a fulfilling life with those you care about, and vice versa.