As humans, we all have a natural need to feel and be connected to each other. We have an entire field of people—sociologists—who study societies, human relationships, and social behavior. Socialization is an extremely important part of life for every age group, especially seniors. As we grow older, our peer groups shrink in size because of life changes, like moves and deaths, and it becomes even more important for us to stay connected with people who share the same interests as us and who are in the same life stages as we are. Here are some reasons why seniors should socialize.
1. Live Longer
Social interactions may help to boost your immune system. According to one study, having many healthy social relationships was found to be just as beneficial to a person’s health as quitting smoking is. This study found that people who have strong social relationships have a 50 percent higher chance of living longer than people who have poor social relationships or don’t socialize much at all.
2. Lower Your Chances of Cognitive Decline
A study that was conducted in California found that senior women who have large social networks reduced their risk of dementia and delayed or prevented cognitive impairment. You don’t have to meet others in person in order to socialize though. One study found that seniors who use social media, like Facebook and Instagram, to keep in touch with family and friends may experience cognitive improvement from that type of interaction. Familial socialization is also important. Another study found that postmenopausal women who spend at least one day a week looking after their grandchildren have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
3. Increase Your Self-Confidence
Having a group to socialize with increases a person’s feelings of being helpful and being needed. Social interactions give us a sense of purpose and of belonging. Studies have shown that socialization is needed in the early years of our lives in order for us to develop properly. Continued socialization throughout our lives helps us to maintain a healthy outlook on life, thus boosting our self-confidence. Our social groups provide us with love, attention, and the ability to communicate openly, which are all necessary for a healthy self-confidence.
4. Improve Your Physical Health
Socialization decreases stress, and a decrease in stress has a positive effect on your health, both mental and physical. Studies have found that socialization can lower your blood pressure. Having healthy relationships with others could also reduce your risk for some diseases, like cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers. Exercise is an important part of aging well and keeping a healthy body, and people who start an exercise program with a group are more likely to continue with that exercise than those who start exercising alone.
5. Improve Your Mental Health
Socialization helps to prevent feelings of isolation, which in turn can prevent depression or other mood disorders. People who have Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are at a greater risk of being isolated and depressed, and proper socialization can help. Interacting positively with people we care about has been found to increase the body's production of the hormone oxytocin, also known as the bonding hormone. When we feel a deep connection to others, we are less likely to fall into sadness or despair.