How Social Activities and Retirement Communities Benefit Seniors
As Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal.” We may quibble about the animal part, but we know how important social interaction is, especially as we age. Building and maintaining social relationships and friendships can have a huge impact on seniors’ wellness. Social activities for seniors are important because they help ward off loneliness and prevent feelings of isolation. They also provide a sense of purpose and give older adults something to look forward to regularly.
There are many benefits of socialization. Seniors with an active social life tend to avoid many of the physical, cognitive and emotional difficulties that more isolated seniors encounter. These are some important ways that socialization can improve senior health:
- Reduced stress and anxiety. Socially active older adults handle stress better and have reduced levels of anxiety.
- Longer lifespan. High levels of socialization in seniors help increase longevity.
- Increased fitness. Older adults with diverse social supports are more likely to exercise regularly, which leads to a host of physical, mental and cognitive benefits.
- Reduced risk of depression. Consistent socialization reduces the likelihood that seniors will experience the depression caused by isolation and loneliness.
- Greater self-esteem. Socialization helps seniors maintain their self-esteem and sense of worth.
Preventing social isolation in elderly people can be challenging, especially if they’re less mobile than they used to be or can no longer drive. In fact, a key benefit of living in a senior living community like John Knox Village is the active social life and abundance of opportunities for meeting and spending time with other people. If you don’t live in a community, or even if you do, and would like some ideas for getting out and socializing with your peers, here are a few suggestions.
Visit your local senior center
This is one of the best, and most obvious, places to find near you. Most senior centers have a wide range of offerings, including exercise classes, educational programs, and arts and crafts workshops. Other activities for seniors can include computer classes, potluck dinners, and even field trips. Programs at senior centers are often free or have very low cost . Some even provide transportation for seniors who are not able to drive themselves.
Talk a stroll
Walking with others strengthens your body and improves your mental attitude, plus you’re able to catch up with your friends. It is one of the most beneficial social activities for the elderly. Often, seniors get together to walk in parks, their neighborhoods and other outdoor areas. When the weather is bad, you could always walk inside a department store or mall. You can sometimes find walking groups advertised in local newspapers.
Offer a helping hand
Volunteer work is a great way to stay active and connected, while helping others. It also offers many health benefits. Seniors who volunteer have been shown to experience fewer functional limitations, fewer symptoms of depression and longer life expectancy. Even more important, volunteering can give you a sense of purpose for your life. Hospitals, schools, animal shelters and community centers are always looking for reliable volunteers of all ages.
Exercise with others
Any exercise is of course a great way to improve fitness, but participating in classes is more social and helps alleviate depression and boredom. Besides providing classes for aerobics and stretching exercises, many gyms and senior centers also include yoga classes, which help to improve not only muscle strength, but also flexibility and balance. Swimming and water aerobics classes are also an option. In fact, water exercises are more helpful than land exercises for those who suffer from arthritis, as it doesn’t put pressure on the joints.
Enjoy lifelong learning
Many colleges or adult education centers provide classes designed specifically for seniors. You can continue to learn new things and expand your mind, and brain-stimulating activities like taking classes help combat the cognitive decline that typically accompanies loneliness.
Organize a game night
Round up some friends or neighbors and challenge them to card, board, dice, or other types of games once a week or once a month. Games like bridge, canasta, poker, bingo, and charades can inspire lots of laughs and generate plenty of fun.
Dig in the dirt
If you love gardening, join a gardening club where you can socialize with other folks with green thumbs. Besides learning more about growing plants, you could participate in outings with other gardeners and make some new friends.
Get a dog
In addition to providing companionship, a dog can be especially helpful, because they are guaranteed to take you out of the house for walks. Walking a dog compels you to get outdoors in the fresh air, and you can easily strike up conversations with other dog owners while you’re hanging out at the park. If you live somewhere that doesn’t allow pets or you just don’t want the full-time responsibility, try volunteering at your local animal shelter. Many shelters welcome volunteers who are willing to feed or groom the animals or take the dogs out for a walk.
At John Knox Village, we have a lifestyle full of fun with a multitude of activities that benefit your social life available every day. Give us a call at 386-775-0788 to hear more about them.