Throughout our lives, we’ve used socialization skills to make meaningful connections and navigate the world to build our careers, families, and lives. The importance of socialization and connecting with others should not diminish after retirement. On the contrary, it may be even more important to stay connected.
Humans are social creatures. We need to interact with others regularly to maintain our mental and physical health and wellness. This is especially true for aging individuals. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “good connections and social support can improve health and increase longevity.”
Silver Comet Village, a senior living community in Powder Springs, Georgia, recognizes the importance of socialization. We strive to help individuals and their families maintain their health and stay connected - even if in-person contact is not an option.
Positive Aspects of Socialization
A healthy social life is an essential part of living a long life. However, when we are isolated from others, feelings of loneliness, stress, depression, and anxiety can develop. Even though these conditions may seem limited to mental wellness, over time, stress, depression, and anxiety can have a negative impact on our physical well-being as well.
When individuals interact with friends and family members, it creates a more relaxed environment. This environment can reduce stress levels, boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the chance of a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular complications.
With a lowered risk of physical and mental conditions developing, an individual can increase their longevity through meaningful socialization.
Creates a Sense of Purpose
Connecting with others can provide us with a sense of purpose. When we interact with family and friends or participate in group events and activities, we feel a part of something larger than ourselves.
In addition, a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine focusing on older adults with depressive symptoms found that “social contact may be as effective as physical activity in improving mood and quality of life.”
It feels good to be wanted and included in a group. When you connect with your core group of friends or family members, you feel a sense of belonging. This can also help boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem and self-worth.
Improves Cognitive Functioning
According to Greater Good Magazine, “the rate of cognitive decline was 70 percent less in people with frequent social contact than those with low social activity.”
Socializing requires us to be engaged in conversation and activity. While simple as it may seem, this engagement provides essential mental stimulation that can help improve cognitive functioning.
A conversation requires concentration; an individual must listen and process what another person is saying, remember what was already said throughout the conversation, and form a response. By actively socializing and staying connected with family and friends, you can help keep your mind sharp!
A study published in the JAMA Psychiatry Journal found that the “risk of [Alzheimer’s disease] was more than doubled in lonely persons…compared with persons who were not lonely.” This research further proves that socialization and meaningful interactions with friends and family can help improve cognitive functioning and delay any decline.
Finding New Ways to Connect
As we grow older, it can become more challenging to stay connected. Whether this is due to changes in our health, decreased mobility, cognitive decline, or a lack of access to reliable transportation, the fact is that socialization is still crucial, and we need to find ways to stay connected to our friends and family members.
Now, there is another obstacle that we need to overcome: COVID-19.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, staying connected with family and friends has changed. Visiting and socializing in person is limited or, in some cases, restricted. As a result, individuals around the world have gotten creative to stay connected with loved ones.
Technology that Supports Virtual Socialization
Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype
All three of these platforms allow individuals to connect through video calling. Even though you cannot physically be in the same place as your family and friends, video chat programs enable you to see one another face-to-face.
FaceTime, a feature available on all iOS devices such as iPhones, iPads, and Macs, is as easy to use as initiating a regular phone call, making it an excellent app for family and friends to use to stay connected.
Zoom and Skype, while similar, are used for slightly different purposes. Because Zoom supports 100 participants, as opposed to Skype’s 50, it is often used by companies to hold meetings and employee/client calls. However, if your primary goal is to connect with friends and family, either will work for you!
Social Media Platforms
Social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, enable individuals to post life updates and see photos of family and friends. Additionally, each of these platforms hosts its own in-app chat feature, allowing users to send private messages to one another. Beyond staying connected to family and friends, social media platforms serve as news sources, gaming outlets, and entertainment.
While we encourage the use of social media, we also know it’s important to practice safe habits. Read our blog, “Becoming Savvy and Staying Safe on Social Media,” to learn more.
How you connect with friends and family has taken on a new form, but this does not mean that you have to stop doing the activities that you and your peers enjoy doing in person. Use one of the mentioned video calling platforms to host a game night or a virtual book club! Set up a video call for a family dinner or watch a movie together. Or simply use these virtual tools to have a conversation, chat, and connect.
A More Traditional Way to Stay Connected
While technology has come a long way and is a fantastic tool that helps us socialize instantaneously with our loved ones, there is something to be said about the “old-fashioned” methods of staying connected. We are not talking about carrier pigeons, but we are talking about writing letters.
Writing letters is not an immediate form of connection, but putting pen to paper and writing out your thoughts and feelings can seem more personal and intimate. Your handwriting alone can help the person you send the letter to feel more connected to you and vice versa.
Connecting with Others Beyond Close Friends and Family
Socializing with friends and family members is great, but you may want to venture out of your close circle and connect with a more diverse group of people. For instance, perhaps you want to find individuals who share your same hobbies or interests, or you want to socialize with different generations to pass down your wisdom and help bridge the generational gap.
There are organizations set up to help individuals foster multigenerational connections and bridge the gap.
- Papa pairs aging individuals and families with “Papa Pals” for anything from companionship to assistance with everyday tasks. Whenever individuals want to connect, they request a Papa Pal and schedule their virtual visit to enjoy a meaningful connection.
- Sāge focuses on cultivating intergenerational relationships that “tap into the life experience, skills, knowledge, and stories of an older generation.” Through one-on-one classes, younger generations learn from older individuals as they share their wisdom and experiences. Not only is this a great way to connect, but it is also a great way to learn something new.
- Cirkel is another intergenerational platform, but its focus is on creating a space for individuals to share insights and develop their careers. “Cirkel connects professionals across ages and career stages for mutual growth and mentorship.”
While spending time with friends can seem frivolous, socialization is vital to our overall health and wellness. If you or a loved one is showing signs of isolation or experiencing feelings of loneliness, try one of the ways to connect with your friends and family that we have shared. Even a simple phone call can go a long way in helping a loved one feel connected.
Family involvement and connection are some of our core values at Silver Comet Village. Our senior living community in Powder Springs, Georgia, provides individuals with the support and tools they need to socialize and stay connected with the ones they love.
To learn more about how we do this or the services we offer in our community, contact a member of our Silver Comet team or visit our website.
Updated: September 2021
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