It is a sad fact of life that as people grow older, their sense of community fades. Children move out, friends sometimes move on, and the sense of belonging gained from working with colleagues ceases to exist in retirement. Humans are social creatures who need a sense of community to thrive and this need does not suddenly vanish once an individual reaches retirement. For seniors to live their best lives, maintaining a sense of community is as important as maintaining mental and physical health.
Socialization is Vital for Cognitive Functioning
It is a commonly accepted fact that physical activity is vital for maintaining good health. Social activity is less acknowledged than its physical counterpart but is equally important for maintaining motor functions and general quality of life.
Regular social interactions have been found to improve the brain health of seniors, especially in regard to diseases like dementia. One study, which used the data of over 1100 seniors without dementia at baseline, measured participants' social activity levels and tested cognitive functioning over a 12-year period. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was 20 percent lower in individuals who had frequent social contact than for those with a low rate of social activity.
Belonging to a Community is Vital for Physical Health
One of the most important practices, vital to physical health is daily physical activity. Research has found that loneliness and social isolation impact an individual’s rates of physical activity regardless of gender, age, socio-economic status, mobility limitations and other factors. Seniors that live an active lifestyle within a community are likely to experience many health benefits, including:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular problems
- Reduced risk of stroke
The Effects of Community on Mental Health
Studies have found that loneliness is just as dangerous to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In addition to the impacts of loneliness on cognitive and physical health, social isolation can also affect a senior’s mental health. Lack of social connection increases the likelihood of experiencing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Not only does loneliness cause mental suffering but it is common for these mental health issues to impact overall physical wellbeing in the older age groups.
Why Finding the Right Community Matters
People can feel just as isolated in a large crowd as they can alone in a house by themselves. Finding a sense of community as a senior is not quite as simple as finding any age-appropriate group, it is about finding a community of like-minded individuals. Some communities like Select Senior Communities will design care options and offer a range of different resources to help you identify needs and match them to the perfect community.
Loneliness and social isolation should not be accepted as a natural consequence of aging. Community and regular social interactions are just as important as regular physical activity for seniors, both being vital for mental and physical wellbeing. An active sense of community is important in order to ensure seniors are best able to enjoy daily life.