Social Interaction and Longevity Amongst Seniors
How Does Social Interaction Improve Health and Longevity Amongst Seniors?
Social interaction has been integral to the wellness of all adults — particularly older adults. But why is social wellness so important?
To begin, social stimulation benefits well-being, including lightening your mood and making you feel happier, lowering your risk of dementia through the power of conversation, and promoting a sense of safety and belonging. For an aging population, the results of healthy socialization are to improve overall wellness.
What Research Indicates
Research completed by the University of Washington St. Louis’ department of Psychology details how meaningful conversation impacts how older people perceive themselves and their life purpose. The study focused on both working and retired adults. Ph.D. candidate and research student Gabrielle Pfund says, “Specifically for our retired older adults, this is a construct we should really care about,” she said. Pfund says, “The people in your life are going to have a very, very big impact on that. If you find yourself surrounded by people who bring you down … that’s going to have an impact.” She continues, “On the flip side, if you’re surrounded by people who lift you up and who infuse your life with positivity, that’s going to have an impact, too.”
The practice of social wellness can include keeping regular contact with friends and loved ones, engaging in volunteer work if able, joining a group based on interests, or joining a cultural organization. These examples and many others provide a social outlet to improve mental health through feeling a sense of belonging. Socializing also provides opportunities for meaningful conversations, improving the ability to recall and discuss information. Socializing exercises the brain in a way that can reduce the chances of developing memory loss disorders such as dementia. Reflecting on this research, Pfund says, “Having a sense of purpose is about more than feeling good. Prior research has shown that adults with a higher sense of purpose lead longer, healthier, and happier lives. They have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and heart and other cardiovascular problems.”
It is essential to reflect on the importance of healthy social interaction and how it can provide a sense of individuality and purpose while improving mental health.
References Being Social May Be Purposeful in Older Adulthood: A Measurement Burst Design