The Benefits of Being Social for Older Americans

The Benefits of Being Social for Older Americans
Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Think back to the last time you had a great time socializing. What made that event so special? Perhaps you’re imaging a family party over the holidays when you were able to see people who live far away. Maybe you like visiting with grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Others might be thinking of a fun activity outdoors over the summer when they were able to join their friends or loved ones for a romp in the sun.

Although each of these social events is different, they have something in common: connection. Reminding ourselves of the connections we have with others is one of the most restorative and therapeutic activities in which we can engage. So why do we tend to neglect social activity? When life gets busy or when it feels like a burden to go out and see our loved ones, socializing tends to be the first thing to go. We now know that social activity has a relation no only with emotional well being but with physical and cognitive health, as well. Let’s consider some of the recent findings about the relationship between social activity and health before imagining some of the ways to get connected.

Social Activity and Healthy Bodies

It might come as a surprise, but those who engage in more social activity tend to have better physical health in a number of ways. Those who report higher levels of socializing tend to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even some forms of cancer. Sometimes the effect has to do with physical activity that is associated with socializing, such as that summertime romp in the park. However, there are other effects that have to do directly with social connections.

Social Activity and Healthy Minds

When we socialize, we are doing all kinds of things for our brains, ranging from promoting the ability to improvise meanings to forging logical links between different ideas. Each of these essential cognitive skills is developed in conversation, so social events are perfect times to keep our minds sharp. Those who have higher levels of social activity even report lower levels of Alzheimer’s and dementia. However, the mental benefits don’t stop with cognition. Feeling connected to others has a strong effect on reducing depression, and those who get out of the house rather than isolating themselves can relieve many depressive symptoms.

Let’s Socialize!

With these many benefits in mind, what is the best way to get more socially involved, particularly as you get older? It can be difficult to find the motivation to leave the house where we are comfortable and sedentary, yet getting out of the house is important to promote health in all the aforementioned ways. One of the best ways to develop social connections is to step outside your comfort zone and learn something new. Taking a class not only helps you develop a new skill but also puts you in touch with people who have a shared interest. Perhaps you are interested in an exercise class—even better! By getting involved in physical fitness classes at your local gym, you can reap the benefits for the mind and body. Many people find they have more time on their hands as they get older, and that time can be put to good use through volunteering. Your extra hours can be used to benefit others if you get connected at a hospital, nursing home, school, or other non-profit organization. You will not only be making others’ lives better through volunteering, but you will also be getting the good feeling of connecting with other volunteers as well as the people you serve.

Professional Hearing Services

One of the barriers to socialization that many older people face has to do with hearing loss. When conversations are difficult to make out, some people would prefer to stay inside and avoid the awkward moments when they can’t understand what others are saying. If this sounds like you or someone you love, the time is now to get a hearing test. Once we have an assessment of your hearing ability, we can pair you with hearing devices that will be crucial in social environments, making it possible to get connected once again! Contact us at Professional Hearing Services today.

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