A recent study by the geriatric neuro psychiatrists at University of California San Diego’s school of medicine confirmed that social interaction is a key contributor to personal happiness in older adults. Humans are communal by nature, and this only becomes more important as we age.
It comes down to this — we ALL crave community. It’s just that as we age it becomes harder and harder to maintain our social connections.
When looking at senior lifestyle communities like Cascades, people tend to focus on tangible benefits like nursing, dining and transportation services; yet, hands down, the largest benefit is maintaining or improving your social life. That’s because nothing can replace living among caring and compassionate people with shared interests and a desire to live life fully.
In addition to psychological benefits, like a sense of belonging, socialization has a measurable impact on our physical health.
In an article in Medical News Today, Susan Pinker, psychologist, author and social science columnist for The Wall Street Journal, adds that person-to-person interaction triggers a release of neurotransmitters like oxytocin. This lowers stress, which is one of the leading causes of many cardiac diseases.
Senior lifestyle communities also offer numerous opportunities for growth and learning through classes, outings, cultural arts activities and special events. Research has shown that activities like this heighten brain activity, lowering a person’s risk of certain brain-based illnesses, such as dementia.
At Cascades, we learn the most from each other. That’s because our community is made up of wonderful individuals, including talented artists, musicians, writers as well as accomplished business and science leaders. To say the least, dinner conversations are rarely dull.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, signs of senior depression may include:
Older adults should be monitored for these signs by their care professionals. As these symptoms don’t always present during doctor visits, it’s important that nurses, caretakers, and families be watching for them as well.
Retirement and senior lifestyle communities generally offer diverse social activities throughout the year. Having engaging social activities just footsteps away is definitely a plus.
However, if you or a loved one lives alone, social activities may also be available close to home through local churches, community centers, and senior groups involved in everything from Tai Chi to checkers.
Volunteering in a local school, library or nonprofit organization is another great activity. The website VolunteerMatch.org is an excellent resource for finding local volunteer opportunities.
By far the most rewarding part of our service to seniors at Cascades is seeing first-hand the personal transformations that can occur when someone who was once isolated is surrounded by friends and compassionate caregivers.
We are truly inspired every day by the richness of life shared among our residents.
We hope this information shines a light on the importance — emotionally and physically — of maintaining vital social connections as we age.