As people age, some of the functions that once came so easily may start to diminish, or are lost completely. However, that doesn’t mean seniors cannot continue to lead healthy, active and productive lives — no matter their ability level. There are myriad ways people can age productively, including eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and physical exercise,1 and, perhaps one of the most important ways, staying socially connected.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, notes that “social relationship are consistently associated with biomarkers of health, and loneliness may have a physical, as well as, an emotional impact,” adding that people who are lonely often have high blood pressure.2
Staying engaged can be a challenge for seniors, but every local community offers a variety of different options that can help. Here are four ways seniors can stay engaged to remain healthier as they age:
- Join a group. Whether it’s a book club, knitting circle, a politically driven discussion group, or a group of foodies trying the latest restaurant, getting together with other people who share similar interests gives seniors a regular social outlet. It can also be a great way for seniors to discover new hobbies that can further help keep them engaged.
- For mobile seniors, volunteering their time benefits both them and others. Sharing knowledge on favorite subjects or putting their hands to work in a local soup kitchen are positive options. Animal lovers can volunteer at a local shelter helping out with the cats and dog—and rabbits and birds and other creatures they may have!
- Foster/Adopt a Pet. Though some people may prefer furry felines over a canine companion, or vice versa, seniors who have the ability might want to consider fostering or adopting a pet as a way to stay engaged as they age. Not only will a pet help abate loneliness that many seniors are prone to, but, pets decrease stress, promote a regular exercise routine, and can be a great ice breaker when developing new relationships.3
- Stay Connected. Yes, it’s common knowledge that Facebook can be a time suck, but it can also be a great way for seniors—especially those who may not be as mobile—to stay connected with friends and family. For seniors who do have greater mobility, planning regular visits with loved ones, babysitting grandkids, or setting up coffee dates with friends are great ways to stay connected. Nurturing relationships with friends and family not only strengthens connections for seniors, but also helps keep depression and loneliness at bay.