Humans are social creatures, and getting older doesn't change that fact. However, as we get older it’s easier to become more isolated, particularly for seniors who have lost friends, partners, or family. For seniors who find themselves in assisted living, though, an active social life can be even more important than for those who still live independently.
What Makes Social Health So Important?
When you're lonely, you are missing out on social support. Not only that, but it can have an impact on your health. As Walker Methodist points out, a social life helps keep seniors invested in the world around them, it keeps their spirits up, and it can have positive impacts on health. A lowered risk of dementia, boosts to mental health, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of cardiovascular problems are just a few of the benefits that come with having a social safety net.
In short, seniors who have an active social life will live longer and more fulfilling lives, overall.
It's also important to remember that the converse is true as well. Not having an active social life puts seniors at increased risk of health problems, both physically and mentally. Not only that, but seniors who experience isolation tend to also experience feelings of boredom, listlessness, frustration, and depression. All things that can have negative impacts on health, quality of life, and they can lead to seniors having fewer years than they otherwise would.
Isolation is bad for people, and that's true at all stages of life. However, isolation is much more difficult to fend off when seniors lose their ability to be independent, as they can feel like they've had their freedom taken away from them. The loss of a driver's license, or the ability to live in one's own home, can be big hits to a senior's sense of self, and those losses can lead to an increase in stress. Moving to a place they aren't familiar with can also have negative impacts, even if a senior agrees that they should be living in an assisted living community for their own health and safety.
How You Can Help Seniors Lead An Active Social Life in Assisted Living Communities
Assisted living communities know how important socialization is for seniors, and it's why they try to form a sense of community among the residents. There are regular activities residents can participate in, and there are common areas in addition to the residents' personal rooms. Staff members are encouraged to be personable, and to make residents feel welcome and cared for. Some communities may also allow residents to keep pets, since these animals can provide companionship and assistance.
One of the best ways to help seniors live an active social life, though, is to be as involved with them as possible. If you can visit, you should. If you can't be there in person, then you should call, text, email, or face-time with your loved ones. Keep a connection open with them in order to let them know you still care about them, and that they matter to you.
If a senior has loved ones as a rock, they can often reach out to build an active social life of their own. They may feel more confident in talking with other members, or you might persuade them to join one of the community's social groups (or to start their own, if they want to get people involved in a hobby or activity that isn't currently available). By helping them stay on their feet, you can give them the strength to keep living a fulfilling life.