Physical activity for seniors is a must, but it’s important to have just as much social activity as you age. Connections with others and relationships work to increase your overall wellness, allowing seniors to feel a sense of community.
Studies show that there are many benefits of social activity for seniors:
Increase and Maintain Cognitive Function
Cognitive function in seniors can be impaired. The NIH finds many causes of cognitive function impairment, such as:
- Endocrine issues
- Metabolic issues
- Side effects of medication
Cognitive impairment can lead to dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. Early screening can help, but studies have also shown that social activity can improve and help a person maintain cognitive function.
A lot of the cognitive function benefits are provided through good emotional health. Seniors that are more social are less depressed and have a happier mood.
Physical Health Improvements
Fitness levels start declining as young as age 45, and as a person ages, the decline occurs even faster. Physical health is important for seniors, and social activity offers a boost to physical health.
Social activity gets seniors moving, allowing them to forge new memories as well as:
- Gets a person out of the house
- Encourages seniors to eat
When seniors eat with others, they’re also more inclined to eat healthier, or make smarter food choices.
Social activities can also include:
- Playing tennis
It’s essential that seniors get out with their peers and do things. Social activities can be mental, such as playing chess or bingo, or these activities can be physical, such as going for walks.
Sleep Improvement Benefits
Seniors suffer from sleeping less. When it comes to sleep, adults need just as much sleep as seniors, but a shift in sleeping habits has seniors sleeping less. Medical conditions can also cause seniors to sleep more.
Sleep apnea, for example, can cause a senior to get a restless night of sleep, requiring a midday nap.
Heart rhythm issues can also cause a person to have difficulty sleeping. Sometimes, there’s no health-related reason for seniors to sleep less. It’s a natural occurrence for some seniors to suddenly stop sleeping as much.
But when this happens, the body isn’t allowed to repair as it did when the person was younger. There’s also the concern that a person’s immune system will be impacted by lack of sleep.
Social activity has been known to promote better sleep.
The cause for difficulty sleeping may be:
Seniors, and people in general, who have fulfilling relationships have been shown to sleep better at night. There’s also research linking a stronger immune system with seniors who are more socially active.
Increase in Happiness Levels
Social activity helps stave off depression. Seniors are often isolated or feel secluded. Friends and family members may have died, or they may no longer be able to engage in the activities that they once enjoyed. It’s a problem that a lot of seniors will face during their lifetime.
Social activity helps reverse the signs of depression and increases happiness levels.
Friends can help encourage each other to stay active, get out of the house and even live longer. Sometimes, it’s the ability to share experiences and hardships with others that helps seniors live longer.
There’s something to live for and look forward to when social activity is a key component of a person’s life.
Motivation Levels Increase
Motivation or willingness to try something new starts to wane as we age. A senior may not have the motivation to get out of bed some days. Encouragement from others and a sense of not being alone can increase a senior’s motivation.
The right social activities can also help seniors:
- Overcome illnesses
- Beat depression
- Overcome injuries
Seniors that are motivated are inspired to do new things and will participate in activities that help build their self-confidence and provide mental stimulation.
The increase in motivation also helps add to the accountability of a senior.
It’s not uncommon for seniors to stay home and miss activities. But when a person starts to become more active and build on friendships that they make, they have a higher sense of accountability.
Individuals that have a “purpose” are more likely to get out of bed in the morning, maintain a healthy lifestyle and have a sense of meaning.
Socializing fosters a positive mindset that boosts positivity and motivation.
When seniors want to socialize and get out of the house, it’s often difficult to get started. There’s no going to school and meeting up with friends. Retirees will also not have the social activity that they once enjoyed at work.
A few recommendations for socialization are:
- Volunteer in your local community
- Join a fitness center to improve your fitness level
- Stay closely connected to family members
- Get a part-time job
- Enroll in a class
You can also join a local club or group. There are clubs and groups for everything from gardening to reading.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.