You enjoy your book club, visits with grandkids and lunch with friends, but did you also know these are good for your health?
Research shows that social interaction is good for everyone, but it is especially beneficial for older adults. “Social capital” is the name researchers have given to the ties that help us build trust, connection and participation. As part of the aging process, people often retire from jobs, lose friends through death and lose family due to busy careers or relocation. This reduction in social interaction can have a negative impact on an older person’s physical and mental health.
All Interaction Helps
Fortunately, it is never too late for an older adult to reap the rewards of a social life, according to an article from the Health Behavior News Service of the Center for Advancing Health.
The article quotes the author of a study related to the effects of socialization among older adults: “People have some control over their social lives, so it is encouraging to find that something many people find enjoyable—socializing with others—can benefit their cognitive and physical health,” says Patricia A. Thomas, Ph.D.
Dr. Thomas and her research associates studied how a person’s changing social connections over time affected health. Study participants, all over the age of 60, were asked about social activities such as visiting family and friends; attending meetings, programs or clubs; and volunteering in the community. They were also asked about mental and physical limitations.
Thomas found that participants with medium to high levels of social engagement delayed the onset of cognitive and physical health issues. She points out, “Even if older adults weren’t socially active when they were younger, when they increase social activity later in life, it can still reduce physical and cognitive health issues.”
The Impact of Communities with Rich Social Capital
Compelling arguments for the importance of social connections are also shared through the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkley.
An article on the Center’s website discusses the research work of Yvonne Michael at the Drexel University School of Public Health, who studies the effects of social capital on seniors.
Her studies involve asking older adults living in various communities to answer questions such as “Are your neighbors willing to help each other with routine maintenance?” or “Can you trust your neighbors?” Using the results, Michael determines the connections between health, behavior and social capital.
In a health study involving 14,000 older adults, Michael found that seniors who live in neighborhoods with high levels of social capital are more physically mobile than those living in neighborhoods with low social capital.
In summary, Michael said, “Living in a place with greater social capital—where there is more trust and more helpful neighbors—you will feel more comfortable walking around to get to places you need to go, which helps you stay mobile.”
A Healthy Answer to Isolation
Senior living communities like Meth-Wick provide a solution to the decline in the social capital of older adults. We offer an environment where companionship and interaction are easily accessible.
Meth-Wick’s Town Center is our hub of social activity, where residents can join friends for a leisurely cup of coffee or participate in one of many programs to exercise the body and mind. There are also many on-campus opportunities to volunteer, which is another important way to build social capital.
At Meth-Wick, we believe in helping our residents live their best life through many forms of social engagement, while at the same time respecting personal privacy.