Isolation is literally a killer, especially as people become older. Social isolation can produce detrimental effects comparable to those of obesity, smoking, or diabetes, and the potential results are devastating, including a weakened immune system, cardiovascular disease, depression, stroke, cognitive decline, cancer, and early death.
The risks associated with isolation are also widespread: according to the National Council on Aging, one of every six seniors – both male and female – is at risk of crippling isolation. Older women are even more at risk, with six of every 10 facing a risk of isolation, oftentimes due to widowhood. Staying social is an essential element to avoiding isolation and aging well.
Minimize Health Risks and Depression
For seniors, staying social is the key to minimizing the serious physical health risks associated with isolation. Maintaining social connections can greatly reduce depression and help improve your health. Along with staying social, making an effort to improve cognitive and motor skills can also reduce depression and anxiety as seniors age.
Stay Social, Stay Involved
Maintaining ties with family and friends is vital to preventing isolation. However, seniors who do not have family members living close by need not be resigned to spending their days and nights in isolation. Volunteering in a local school or neighborhood club, or even taking public transportation downtown, gets seniors out of the house and in contact with other people.
Taking an exercise class, seeing a show, or going for a dip in the community pool provides double benefits: the activity itself is enjoyable and each setting provides the opportunity to meet new people. Interaction with others in a relaxed setting provides an ideal environment for making new friends and preventing isolation.
Make the Effort
Of course, there is nothing wrong with occasionally spending time reading a good book or simply relaxing at home. But making the effort to leave the house and interact with others can greatly enhance the quality of life as you age. You will also reduce your risk of facing serious health challenges associated with isolation.