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As humans, we were born to connect. The human species has always survived and thrived in groups and communities, from as far back as our human history goes. Because of our innate desire and need for human connection and communication, it comes at no surprise that there are many really powerful benefits to remaining social as we grow older.
Being Social Benefits Emotional Health
Social interaction is imperative to our emotional health. According to multiple studies and surveys across the globe, older adults with a healthy social life report higher levels of self-esteem, lower levels of depressive symptoms, and a higher overall quality of life than their peers who do not engage in regular social interaction.
Being Social Benefits Cognitive Health
Did you know that social isolation is a risk factor for developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease? Interacting with other people on a regular basis keeps our minds sharp and active. People with a regular and healthy social life may be at a lower risk for experiencing cognitive decline than their peers who do not engage in social activities.
Being Social Benefits Physical Health
Social interaction has also been linked to a potential reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular issues, arthritis, high blood pressure and even some cancers. Additionally, many social activities involve movement and exercise, which is imperative to our health at any age – but especially as we grow older.
Being Social While Socially Distancing
Now that we have outlined all of the important reasons to remain social and connected to the community – it’s time to take action! How is it possible, however, to remain social during this time of social distancing? Especially when older populations are at a higher risk for COVID-19?
Do not despair. There are ways to remain socially connected even while we socially distance.
- Make phone dates. Some older Americans sit by the phone waiting for it to ring so that they can connect – especially during this uncertain time. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, or wondering if your loved ones are available or not, set up “dates” to talk to your children, grandchildren, friends, members of your worship community, etc. These “dates” will give both of you something to look forward to, and will also ensure that both parties are free and fully able to immerse themselves into a hearty, healthy conversation.
- Set up a Zoom or Skype account. If you have a computer at home, try setting up a Zoom or Skype account to video chat with your friends and family. These are really fun because not only do you get to hear your loved ones’ voices, but you also get to see their faces! It might feel overwhelming to use the internet in this way but “according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, the 74+ demographic is the fastest-growing group across web-based social networks!” (https://www.asccare.com/benefits-of-being-social/).
Setting up a Zoom or Skype account is free, and easier than one may believe. The best part is that once you are logged in, there is nothing else you need to do! Simply click on the link that your loved one sent you and your Zoom will automatically open up and begin the video call!
- Buy masks, and have intimate gatherings. At this point, many states are loosening stay at home orders and are allowing very small gatherings. Depending on your comfort level, consider purchasing a few masks and asking a small group of 1-2 friends or family members to stop by. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll forget you are even wearing a mask once the conversation starts flowing and the laughter starts booming. Please check with your healthcare practitioner about your individual situation before choosing to meet with loved ones face-to-face.
Social Interaction and Hearing Health
Whether socially interacting over the phone, via video chat, or in person – true connection is hard to achieve when you cannot fully hear and understand the conversation happening around you. Hearing loss can make being social frustrating and downright unnerving. Luckily, treating hearing loss with hearing aids can help us to better connect with those we love.