The importance of staying active as we grow older is well documented. Not only can frequent exercise help keep muscles strong, it can also improve balance, overall health, and mood. But did you know that it’s just as important to stay socially active as you age? Staying socially engaged has been shown to improve mental wellness in all seniors and slow cognitive degeneration in seniors with dementia; and living in a retirement community is one of the best ways for seniors to stay connected.
How Seniors Can Become Socially Isolated
Even for people who hate their jobs, the workplace offers a space for daily social interaction. After retirement, daily socialization becomes much harder simply because it’s no longer required. While some retirees feel motivated to go out and be social, others find themselves limiting social interaction to visits from friends and family, which can eventually lead to isolation.
A major factor in a senior’s risk of social isolation is their living situation. According to a report by the Administration on Aging, 20% of men and 35% of women aged 65+ live alone, with percentages increasing with age. While seniors living at home will often have informal or formal caretakers, such as adult children or a home care service, they may still feel lonely or disconnected. Distance from social activities and gathering spaces may be a limiting factor, as can health conditions, access to transportation, and more.
Social Living in a Retirement Community
Unlike living at home, an assisted living or retirement community gives seniors daily opportunities to meet and talk with many different people, form new connections and friendships, and partake in social activities. Here are some unique ways retirement communities help residents stay social:
- Communal dining options: Sharing a meal together is a great way to connect, and assisted living facilities usually offer their residents the option to dine communally at least once a day. Good food and great company is a time-honored recipe for cherished relationships.
- Engaging activities: From discussion groups to board games to trail outings, retirement community residents can come together over shared - or newfound - interests. Forming friendships with like-minded peers can help the mind stay sharp.
- Next-door neighbors: While the phrase “next-door neighbors” is usually used to describe the people living in the house adjacent to one’s own, it can be used quite literally in the case of an assisted living community. Most retirement communities offer private or semi-private apartments to their residents, who can form close relationships with those around them without needing to go very far at all.
Staying social can be difficult for aging adults, and social isolation is a very real and dangerous hazard. Retirement communities can help seniors stay engaged in a way that works for them, keeping them healthy for years to come.