About 28% of older adults in the U.S. live alone. While many live socially active lives and are fully aware of the benefits of social interaction, some older adults can retreat into isolation when alone. Research shows that being alone and feeling lonely aren’t the same thing. Having some time to yourself is something we all look forward to. But being isolated when we don’t want to be can lead to feelings of sadness. There are steps we can take to find the balance that’s right for each of us.
The Science of Socializing
People who pursue meaningful social activities tend to be happier and have more of a sense of purpose. This happiness has real health benefits. Spending time with family and friends can be relaxing, which can lower blood pressure. And it may seem hard to believe, but having a sense of purpose can actually strengthen your immune system. Socializing with or helping others lifts your mood and gives you that sense of purpose we all crave. Simply put, people who feel they have a reason to live, do in fact tend to live longer, healthier, happier lives.
The Challenge of Memory Loss
As people age and begin to show signs of cognitive impairment, even just the normal moments of forgetfulness associated with aging, they can become more worried about their safety. They may drive less and spend more time managing their daily routine, which can result in more time spent alone.
In one particular study of senior health, older adults who participated in regular, frequent socializing had a 70% less rate of cognitive decline than those who weren’t regularly socially active. That’s a huge difference! The consensus among experts is clear: People were meant to spend time together, and when we live our lives the way our bodies and minds work best, we thrive.
Social Factors to Consider
Older adults may stay isolated if they feel they’re vulnerable to crime or fear their security would be at risk if they ventured outside their home. This fear is not isolated to those living in higher-crime neighborhoods. The worry of being a victim of violence, theft or fraud increases as we get older, causing some to feel the need to isolate from the community around them.
One recent study found that the percentage of people who fear becoming a victim of a crime roughly doubles with age. In this study, approximately 20 to 25% of people under the age of 60 said they were afraid to walk outside their home after dark. That number rises steadily after age 60, and at the age of 80 and above, it has increased to approximately 45%.
To maximize the benefits of social interaction, people need safe and easy access to public gathering places and social events. But when an older adult lives in a traditional private home, access to such a place may be limited.
We’re Better Together
Science has proven that humans are social beings. We’re hardwired to feel the benefits of social interaction and drawn to spending time with others. Older adults who spend more time in social groups continue learning, including learning about senior health as they talk to each other. Such conversations can lead to more proactive doctor visits and health screenings.
A Community Designed for Socializing
The easiest way to enjoy the benefits of social interaction is to consider moving to a senior living community that already provides a constant flow of social events organized and waiting for you! At Beacon Hill, dedicated team members make sure every day is filled with opportunities for you to reap the benefits of social interaction. Here, you’ll find a community where you can spend time pursuing your interests in a secure and comfortable surrounding. You can build relationships that will become the cornerstone of your healthy, active and vibrant lifestyle, in all levels of care.