A Vibrant Social Life, Equals a Healthy Life!
All throughout life we are developing social skills and forging relationships with those around us. We develop deep bonds with family, and we also have those chosen friends that feel like family! In addition to that, we oftentimes have opportunities to meet new people every day—be it at work, in education, in business, at sporting events, clubs, or activities in our home communities. When we have those opportunities to meet new people, and we are open to getting to know those individuals, it triggers changes in our brain. Positive changes!
Humans have very complex brains and we are social by nature. Sure, there are those people we all know that shy away from social interactions, but those of us that actively engage with others are also preventing the development of mental illnesses and cognitive impairment. We are building social capital and it is a biomarker of our health. This is something that we can continue to develop and build all throughout life; however, with the natural aging process, that growth can be complicated.
With aging comes a series of other factors that shape our social life. Many of us as we age experience a loss of friendships and family members to health downturns. Those we knew for years may not be alive, or accessible anymore, leaving us to feel very disconnected. Our physical health plays a major role as well—if we are not upwardly mobile anymore, unable to drive, or limited by a chronic disease this limits our ability to be able to socialize and gather with others. The effects of that lack of bond and social interaction weigh on our mental well being. Loneliness and a lack of connection have been linked to depression and a host of other disease processes. So how can we prevent this from happening as we age?
As we age, there are a few things we can incorporate into our lifestyle to keep our brain, our social life, and our health right where we need it to be.
- Stay active with social clubs, community centers, and senior centers. Not only are there a variety of people one can meet, but usually there are a variety of interest groups that gather. Many of the community centers or senior centers in our area offer transportation assistance to aging, non-driving individuals too!
- Don’t give up on learning. There are programs galore for continued education. Learning is not just something one does early in life. Many local colleges and universities allow seniors to audit classes too. Individuals can learn something new and also provide useful feedback. Also, be sure to check out our local life-long learning opportunities such as the Aging Mastery Program at the Portage Senior Center or Osher Life Long Learning Institute through Western Michigan University.
- Play games! Physical games or board games—both will do one some good! Games that challenge our minds with strategy, decision making, reaction time, and negotiation all help to keep a mind sharp and healthy. Games are always more fun with friends too.
- Be an active Volunteer. Volunteering for a local church, non-profit, school or healthcare setting will keep a mind cognitively challenged, and this is an activity that will involve meeting new people frequently. It also can be very rewarding work to do and it can provide many individuals with a greater sense of purpose. Local non-profits like Lending Hands of SWMI, Salvation Army or Ministry with Community are a few that are always looking for volunteers!
- Become a Hobbyist. There is never a better time to rediscover a hobby that was once loved. Rekindling a hobby and gathering with other hobbyists is a great way to stay socially fit! Painting, drawing, gardening, bowling, and traveling are all hobbies that there are groups that exist around in the area.
Don’t let aging get in the way of being social! A healthy social life will equal a long, healthy, and happy life. Get involved, stay involved and make a commitment to meeting new people every day!
Stop by and visit us at Vineyard Assisted Living in Texas Corners. We love new friends and we have vibrant life enrichment opportunities. Our philosophy is “don’t just live, thrive with us!”
By Amanda Willer, Marketing Director at Vineyard Assisted Living