Many seniors face obstacles when it comes to maintaining an active social life, which is proven to have benefits in all areas of a person’s well-being. The loss of a spouse, physical ailments, mobility problems, cognitive decline or lack of family nearby can all lead to isolation and a steady decline in physical, emotional and psychological health.

If you can identify isolation in yourself or a loved one early on, it’s easier to overcome these challenges before they become a habit.

The proven benefits of socialization are numerous and touch on all aspects of health and well-being:

  • Lower risk for depression – an active social life reduces the likelihood of experiencing depression brought on by loneliness and an isolated lifestyle.
  • Longevity – some studies suggest that being social can help you live a longer, more fulfilling life.
  • Improved fitness – when you are social you are more likely to exercise regularly, which has mental, physical and cognitive well-being benefits.
  • Lower anxiety and stress – anxiety and stress can be caused by isolation, but with social relationships, you can gain perspective and develop better-coping strategies.

Proven Cognitive Benefits

When you maintain and participate in positive social interactions consistently, your mind is more likely to stay sharp because it is intellectually engaged.

Cognitive decline can be prevented through social engagement and stimulating mental activities such as games, puzzles or problem-solving challenges, which can also cut your risk of developing dementia in half compared to those who are isolated and have infrequent contact with others.

Checklist to Promote Meaningful Social Engagement

  1. Nurture the social activities and relationships you enjoy most.
  2. If you are lonely, turn to your community to help you engage with others – faith leaders, hotlines, and drop-in senior centers all provide meaningful opportunities to establish new connections.
  3. Ask for help – transportation, mobility, and isolation due to location can seem like insurmountable barriers, however, there are organizations and individuals ready to help seniors.
  4. Keep a circle of friends, family, and neighbors with whom you can exchange ideas, thoughts and mutual support. Daily contact with people is essential to ward off feelings of isolation which in turn can lead one to retreat even further.
  5. Stay in touch with family and loved ones – reach out at least once a week whether in person or by phone or email to communicate and share news, humorous anecdotes or simply chat about what is happening in their (and your) lives.
  6. Stay involved with your community – whether informally or as a volunteer, the benefits, and satisfaction of helping others is a strong antidote to isolation and an overall decline in health.
  7. Nurture connections with people of all ages, including younger people. Share your skills and knowledge and offer to teach others – not only will they appreciate learning new skills, you will derive a great deal of satisfaction and reap the benefits that come from this aspect of socialization.
  8. Try new activities and develop new relationships by getting out and meeting new people in your community.
  9. Stay active and look for opportunities to create new ways to engage – clubs, educational courses, interest groups, political or faith-based organizations and cooking classes all provide fertile ground for meeting people and forging friendships.
  10. Avoid falling into a rut – even if you’re already socially active, look for ways to diversify your activities. Consider creating a group to fulfill your needs around an activity that has a strong common interest, like a workout group, for example.

Regardless of where you are, your age or your abilities, there are many options and resources available to help you connect meaningfully with others and nurture an active and social lifestyle that will, in turn, provide you with purpose, joy and a host of benefits that will add to your quality of life.