Importance of Social Interactions in Older Adults

Socializing is something we sometimes take for granted. But with age, many older adults have a lack of social interactions. This need for socializing is often overlooked despite its immense effects on one's mental and physical health.james-hose-jr-6D58t6uZT5M-unsplash.jpg

Image Source: Unsplash, James Hose Jr

Going out with friends and talking to your work colleagues are things we all take for granted. But as you age and reach retirement age, you might miss all these human interactions as your social circle becomes smaller or in some cases non-existent. Changes such as retirement, a shrinking social circle and other social changes can affect both your mental and physical health.

Lockdowns were an eye-opening experience for people of all ages showing them how a lack of human interaction can affect one’s mental health. Some have even questioned their sanity after being isolated for so long! But living in this state is already the norm for countless elderly people. 

 

Mental health of older adults

About 20% of all adults aged over 60 suffer from a mental or neurological disorder. The most common disorders in people over 60 are dementia and depression. Anxiety disorders also affect a considerable percentage of this age group. 

 

The problem with tackling mental health issues in older adults is that there’s a stigma surrounding these issues which makes elderly people less likely to seek help. To add to all this, mental health issues in older adults are under-diagnosed by health professionals since their symptoms such as a change in activity levels or mood are already associated with aging.

 

Health importance of maintaining a healthy social life

Maintaining a healthy social life can have numerous health benefits. Older adults with a strong social life have a lower risk of depression along with a longer lifespan. As you age, it’s important that your brain remains active. Meeting people and having human interactions at an old age can help your brain stay active and slow cognitive decline.

One study suggested that older adults above 60 who visited friends daily were 12% less likely to get dementia compared to those that visited friends once or twice every few months. While meeting family is essential to maintaining a healthy social life, meeting friends seems to have the most effect when it comes to reducing the risk of dementia. Loneliness and isolation have been linked to many conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Staying social as you age

When you get older, the way by which you meet new people changes. If you’re younger, you get to meet new people at social activities, educational institutions or work. But when you get older and move around less you need to know where to look. Try volunteering or finding a hobby you enjoy. Whatever you try out, the point is to socialize and keep your mind active and engaged. Exercising in groups can also come with many health benefits.

Some older adults really want to socialize but social barriers can prevent them from doing so. Barriers include medical conditions that make moving around harder, transportation, costs related to social activities or even depression. So if you want to help out a close loved one then look out for any barriers and encourage a healthy social life!

 

References:

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-of-older-adults

 

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/staying-social-as-a-senior

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