As you age, staying socially connected becomes more difficult. Maintaining those outside connections are vitally important to both your physical and mental health. In fact, research shows that lonely and isolated seniors are more likely to suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s than those with a healthy social life. Isolated seniors are also prone to depression and other mood ailments.
When you stay connected with friends and family, you are protecting your health. Following are four ways to that can help you stay plugged into the world.
You may live independently, in assisted living or at a full-time nursing facility. In all those instances, you can end up feeling isolated and out-of-touch. Modern technology can help you overcome these feelings. Learning to use a computer, smartphone, or tablet allows you to video chat with your family and friends. You can also use social media to stay in touch with those you care about. Simply learning to text can make you feel less alone since it takes only a minute and even your busy loved ones have time to return your message. Technology offers nearly endless options to connect with the outside world.
If you are intimidated by technology, you can often find free classes at the public library, local community college, or even at your managed living facility. Someone will be happy to teach you.
The advantages of volunteering your time are well documented. People who help others often enjoy better physical and mental health. Volunteering actually releases dopamine into your brain, which makes you feel happier.
Volunteering also helps keep you physically active. Your appointments motivate you to get up and out of the house. When you help others, you improve your community while fighting off loneliness and dark moods.
You may miss the days when your extended family got together for meals or reunions. Now, your family may be too big and too busy to gather together on a regular basis. Try scheduling time with one or two family members each month. You don’t need to wear yourself out entertaining. Meet your daughter or brother at a nearby restaurant and spend a stress-free hour or two with them.
If you live in a senior community, invite family and friends to eat with you there once a month. Routine family contact will do much toward keeping you feeling connected.
If you’ve always had hobbies, do what you can to stay active in them. Your gardening club, stamp collecting group, or vintage car organization can keep you in touch with peers who share your interests. If you need help getting to meetings, other members will be happy to help get you there.
If you’ve never been much for hobbies, try one now. Learn a new language, either at the local college or online. See what senior hobby groups are available in your area. Hobbies keep you socially connected but also challenge you mentally. When you learn new information, you keep your brain sharp and help fight off cognitive issues.
Seniors can more easily stay connected if they become comfortable with technology, but computer and Internet literacy are not the only ways to fight off isolation as you age. You can schedule family visits each month, focusing on one or two people at a time. You can also volunteer your services. Seniors who remain connected socially are less likely to suffer health issues, including cognitive problems.