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How Social Engagement Improves Senior Health

The loss of loved ones and personal independence causes many seniors to experience social isolation, loneliness and compromised health. Connecting with others and learning new things may help boost the mind and the body.

According to a report published by the National Institutes of Health, social isolation may be as hazardous to health as obesity and smoking. Many who live alone or have a limited circle of family and friends have a tendency toward experiencing social loneliness. This may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, depression and lowered immunity.

The Generational Factor

When people get older, they are more likely to experience social isolation as loved ones pass away and mobility declines. The Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence reports that a negative perception of this loneliness may be more detrimental to senior women than men, increasing the likelihood of emotional distress and nursing home placement. But both genders are at risk for a decreased quality of life.

Solving Solitude

Because life expectancies today are longer than they have ever been, people living in their golden years have an increasing need for more and new supportive resources. Society has taken note, developing programs designed specifically to encourage seniors to get out and get social.

The AARP Foundation offers different options to serve older adults, including the Connecting to the Community pilot program. Developed for low-income seniors in need of technology training, the six-month course teaches people how to grow and strengthen social circles via the Internet. Specifically, participants learn to use email and social media to talk and share photos and videos with friends and family.

Addressing the isolation issue from an artistic standpoint, the Creative Aging library program, presented by Lifetime Arts, offers opportunities for older adults to learn new creative skills, spend time with peers and share what they have learned with their communities. Focusing on artistic lessons that include dancing, drama, singing and writing, the courses are available at many public libraries throughout the United States.

Faith May Improve Overall Fitness

Many Americans attend religious services regularly to benefit their spiritual well-being, but recent findings suggest that involvement in organized faith may also offer physical and mental benefits. FamilyFacts.org reports that adults and children who are active participants in a religious organization often experience benefits including:

  • Better pulmonary function

  • Decreased stress levels

  • Improved psychological health

  • Lowered mortality rates

  • Satisfaction with life and overall optimism

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