When we get older and retire from an active working life in which we have interacted with other people regularly, it is very important we take steps to stay connected and continue to maintain social interaction with others. The University of Rochester Medical Center frames this need very well in an article: Older Adults and the Importance of Social Interaction
“As you get older and retire or move to a new community, you may not have quite as many opportunities to socialize as you did when you were younger.
If you’re not heading to an office or getting out and about each day, you may be missing out on important social interaction that you need to stay sharp, healthy, and maybe even ward off dementia. Research has shown that social interaction offers older adults many benefits. Staying socially active and maintaining interpersonal relationships can help you maintain good physical and emotional health and cognitive function.
People who continue to maintain close friendships and find other ways to interact socially live longer than those who become isolated. Relationships and social interactions even help protect against illness by boosting your immune system.
The benefits of being social
Specific health benefits of social interaction in older adults include:
Potentially reduced risk for cardiovascular problems, some cancers, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis
Potentially reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease
Lower blood pressure
Reduced risk for mental health issues such as depression
Conversely, social isolation carries real risks. Some of these risks are:
Feeling lonely and depressed
Being less physically active
Having a greater risk of death
Having high blood pressure
Social interaction helps keep your brain from getting rusty, but it’s most effective when coupled with an overall healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet and physical activity.
Keeping your connections strong
Start by staying in touch with friends and family, and try to visit with them regularly. Here are other ways you can maintain a high level of social interaction:
Volunteer in your community.
Visit a senior center and participate in offered activities with other seniors—this is a great way to make new friends.
Join a group focused on activities you enjoy, such as playing cards or a book club.
Try taking a class—learn a new language or a new style of cooking or experiment with a new hobby.
Join a gym or fitness center to stay physically fit and engage with others.
Find ways to stay young at heart, stimulated, busy—and out of the house. Schedule regular visits with grandkids or volunteer at a school or children’s organization to enjoy time with little ones and absorb some of their youthful energy.
Although staying in touch in person is important, phone calls, snail mail, and e-mail can keep you connected, too—if you’re not yet comfortable with computers, ask a young relative to help you.
Staying socially active and maintaining your relationships are an important part of healthy aging. Reach out to your loved ones—neighbors, friends, family members—and stay as vibrant, active, and social as you’ve always been.”
We have listed below some of the interesting ways you can increase your own level of social interaction, or encourage a family member or friend to do so, and tried to provide some links to help you. If you have other ideas or approaches, please contact us!
Volunteering in your community is an excellent way to meet others and lend a helping hand at the same time. There are a multitude of possibilities in your neighborhood: community centers, schools, libraries, temples, churches, hospices, hospitals, charitable and social organizations and support groups. If you are not sure where to start, here are some Bay Area resources to help you get started:
Step Out With Others
Get out of the house and into the fresh air! Walk, hike, visit a new place! Do some sightseeing! Enjoy music or dance! See a play! Join a gym! Meet new people! Once you decide, the possibilities are endless. Here are some resources to get you going:
BayAreaOlderAdults “is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization that offers outdoor, social and cultural activities for adults age 50+. Membership is FREE and gives you member–only discounts, special offers and a monthly newsletter of group events”
India Community Center “promotes Indian culture and values by providing social, cultural, recreational and community programs, thereby uniting the Indian community, and raising awareness about Indian culture in the local community.”
ICC Senior Programs “India Community Center’s seniors participate in a rich variety of programs and clubs. ICC’s seniors have spawned the highly successful Jollywood Dancers troupe, a theater group, knitting club, bridge club, computer class, and many other activities. Senior Program offered at ICC Milpitas and Cupertino.”
“Stretch it!” Stretch that mind! It is never to late to learn something new. A commitment to lifelong learning is a way for each one of us to keep challenging ourselves mentally, stay engaged with others and the constantly changing world we live in. And having fun along the way! There are many opportunities online, at your local schools, colleges and universities. Check them out!
Would you prefer to try out some free online learning from the comfort of your home? Here are a few to check options to check out:
SeniorPlanet.org “Online since 2006 and relaunched in fall 2012, SeniorPlanet.org celebrates aging by sharing information and resources that support aging with attitude, and helps people who were born long before the digital revolution to stay engaged and active by bringing a digital-technology focus to a range of topics – among them news, health, sex and dating, art and design, senior style, travel and entertainment.”
Free4Seniors provide seniors free access to college classes.
OEDB (Open Education Data Base) provides access to over 10,000 popular free online courses.
edX “is an online learning destination, offering high-quality courses from the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere. With more than 90 global partners, we are proud to count the world’s leading universities, nonprofits, and institutions as our members. EdX university members top the QS World University Rankings® with our founders receiving the top honors, and edX partner institutions ranking highly on the full list.”
Here is how Wikipedia defines Mentorship:
“Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but she or he must have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn.”
Do you have skill, knowledge expertise or experience that could be valuable to someone else? Are you willing to volunteer a few hours a week to impart this skill, knowledge expertise or experience to someone else? What are you waiting for? Become a Mentor! Remember, your Mentor can be younger or older than you are!
Is there something you wish to learn from a Mentor prepared to do the same? Seek out a Mentor who can help you!
Bay Area Mentoring promotes youth mentoring by connecting programs and community members throughout Northern California
Mentoring.org is a national mentoring partnership whose “mission is to fuel the quantity and quality of mentoring relationships for America’s young people and to close the mentoring gap.”
Here are some other ideas for you to consider and perhaps take the lead to set up in your community or friends circle:
Do you have other ideas? Contact us!