Has your social life changed as you have gotten older? It is no surprise that networks of friends and social activities tend to change as people age. But you might be surprised to learn that seniors who build or maintain social connections tend to stay healthier, longer.
Getting involved in activities and building connections with other people can be important to your well-being. People who report lower loneliness and lower social isolation also appear to live longer, happier lives, according to the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. Participating in social and productive activities is recommended by the National Institute on Aging as part of an approach to aging well.
Ways to Stay Connected
Here are three ways you can stay active and build connections:
- Look for activities that have meaning for you. Local political campaigns, after-school programs, pet shelters, and healthcare providers may all be looking for volunteers.
When you care about the cause and the people you are working with, you are more likely to have fun and to stick with it. And people who feel a sense of purpose as they age tend to have better health. If you are looking for a place to start, there are programs that connect volunteers with service opportunities. Check out www.getinvolved.gov, www.serve.gov, or www.volunteermatch.org.
- Talk with your doctor about any medical issues that are getting in the way. Hearing loss prevents many people from wanting to engage in conversation, and it can take a lot of persistence and patience to find the right hearing aids. But your doctor can help you find hearing aids that are right for you. Joint pain is another reason that some people stay home alone. Your doctor can help you find ways to manage pain so that you can get back to being active and doing the things you want to do.
- If transportation is a barrier, look for services that can help. Talk with your local elder services office or Area Agency on Aging. If you don’t know where to begin, ask around, or call your local government office. Elder service agencies often have a social worker or staff member who will help you solve problems with transportation or other barriers to getting around. View our selection of canes, crutches, walkers, scooters, wheelchairs and transport chairs.
Cornwell, B., Laumann, E.O., & Schumm, L.P. (2008). The Social Connectedness of Older Adults: A National Profile. American Sociological Review, 73(2), 185–203.
Cornwell B., Laumann E.O. (2015). The health benefits of network growth: new evidence from a national survey of older adults. Soc Sci Med. Jan;125:94-106. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.09.011.
Steptoe, A., Shankar, A., Demakakos, P. & Wardle, J. (2013). Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1219686110
Participating in Activities You Enjoy: More Than Just Fun and Games: Tips from the National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/participating-activities-you-enjoy
Windsor, T.D., Curtis, R.G., Luszcz, M.A. (2015). Sense of purpose as a psychological resource for aging well. Developmental Psychology, Vol 51(7), Jul 2015, 975-986.