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How Important Is Social Connection For Elderly Health?

By Shantanu Sodhi +2 more

Humans are social creatures from the very beginning. We have evolved from our ancestors who interacted socially with the members of their clans and tribes. One of the benefits of socialization was survival, however, today an active social life still holds many benefits.

With lockdown measures across the world calling for social distance, everyone has had to take a step back from regular social activities. When we were younger, our parents made efforts to ensure we had proper socialization but being socially active is important as we grow older too. 

What is Social Life?

Social life is simply having interactions with people outside of your immediate family, typically on a regular basis. These interactions may involve recurring activities (walks, games, meetings, gatherings, etc.) or simply conversations, some people also consider their regular religious activities as a social activity. 

Who are Seniors?

In anticipation of Senior Citizen Day – 21st August 2021, here is a brief definition of who exactly is a senior citizen. Although the specific age varies by country, seniors or senior citizens are those people who have passed a certain age milestone, typically 60 years or more. In India, for example, people who have passed 60 years of age are considered senior citizens.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, remaining socially active can reduce risk for depression, as well as support brain health and potentially even delay the onset of dementia. Overall, staying socially active can create a positive impact on both mental and physical health.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Why is Social Health important for Seniors?

The benefits of an active social life have been studied and are well known, both in medicine and sociology. It helps to boost brain health, provides emotional support and can even reduce the risk of Dementia. On the other hand, being socially isolated is terribly bad for emotional and physical health. It has been linked to depression, loneliness and in the elderly, it may lead to feelings of being unwanted or being a burden. 

Social isolation has such a strong effect on us that in some countries and situations (for example, prison), forceful social isolation is used as a means of punishment. So, for the elderly, the importance of socialization cannot be ignored. Many people retire from their work at the age of 60-65 years, an active social life holds a lot of significance during this phase. As they get older and their independence is reduced due to age-related complications, being socially active can help them feel needed and improve their self-confidence and overall mental state. 

What is the Physical Importance of Socialization for Seniors?

Although the primary benefits of social life in seniors is an improved mental state (and therefore, improved psychological health), there are also some physical benefits. This is true especially if socializing involves age-appropriate physical activities. Having a friend or group of friends with you when you exercise not only improves your regularity with your fitness regime but also improves your motivation to persevere with it. 

The same goes for seniors, they too can improve their physical health with regular exercise and activities like yoga and walking with the added motivation of a social group helping them along. Besides this, regularly interacting with others, regardless of age can help to keep the mind and brain sharp. 

Senior Communities: Can they benefit the Elderly?

It is not required for seniors to interact with only people of their age, since any kind of active social life still brings with it all the associated benefits. However, elderly folks may find a certain charm to mingling and socialize with people who are in the same age group as them. Whether these meetings are in an elderly home or a community centre or even at someone’s home, a social community specifically for elders can provide a place where they can be themselves. 

But is Socializing really helpful for Seniors?

Although it may not seem like it, there are real and physically measurable benefits to an active social life for elders. In one study, seniors with active social lives were found to have higher physical mobility than those with poorer social lives. Additionally, people who are socially active are more likely to seek medical screening at the appropriate times when it is required. This is especially useful with older adults since cancer affects older demographics significantly more than any other age group. So not only can socialization help with getting physically better but it also helps to remain aware and informed about the latest news and ongoing health updates.

This Senior Citizen Day, take some time out of your schedule to socialize with seniors that you know. Whether it’s your parents, grandparents or other elderly folk near you. A few minutes of your time every day will be fruitful and takes little to no effort. Although the pandemic has thrown a wrench in our ability to keep our social lives active, we can still have responsible socialization by the use of technology, maintaining physical distance and wearing a mask. In the long term, make efforts to keep your social activity consistent and regular, whether you are a senior yourself or someone who interacts with them. 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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