Social and Cognitive Activity Benefits Aging Health

Group of social seniors playing cards

Bob constantly amazes his friends with his quick wit and intellect. At 93, he still drives, plays bridge and attends concerts. Bob credits his active lifestyle and cognitive abilities to the word game that he loves. Nearly every day he sits in his favorite chair, picks up a pad of paper and pen, takes a single word at random from the dictionary and makes hundreds of words out of it.

“Scientists think that such activities may protect the brain by establishing “cognitive reserve.” They may help the brain become more adaptable in some mental functions, so it can compensate for age–related brain changes and health conditions that affect the brain. National institute on Aging

As we age, our social circles reduce as friends and partners may no longer be with us. Family members leave the home and we are no longer in the work place. These changes can cause feelings of social isolation.There is an overabundance of evidence demonstrating numerous negative health outcomes and potential risk factors related to social isolation,”A Review of Social Isolation” by Nicholas R. Nicholson published in The Journal of Primary Prevention.

Older people who feel social isolation are at a higher risk of depression, poor nutrition, cognitive decline, re-hospitalizations and falls. They have an increase in difficulty managing medications and healthcare needs, and increased blood pressure and illness.

Improving Social Wellness in Seniors: Stay Active and Engaged

It is important for older adults to remain socially active by engaging in senior activities as much as possible. “One recent study from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago found that highly social seniors had a 70 percent lower rate of cognitive decline than their less social peers.”  EverydayHealth.com. Spending time with others engaged in meaningful activities is important for people of all ages, especially seniors.

A few of the best social activities for seniors include:

Participate in Activities and Clubs

Join a club in an area of interest like gardening, painting, chess, or music. Call or visit a house of worship, local library or senior citizen center to find out about classes and senior activities in which to participate. See a show or visit a museum with others. To find friends who share your interest look for an group.

Use Social Media

Social media has been found to be a valuable way to improve senior wellness by offering a way  to stay connected with families and friends, and can be instrumental in combating feelings of social isolation. According to data from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, “the 74-plus demographic is the fastest-growing group across Web-based social networks. Some 62% of online adults ages 65 and older now use Facebook”. Senior citizen centers and local high schools often offer tutorials for seniors in how to use computers and social media.

Play Cognitive Rich Games

Board games, card games, word games, chess all help with cognitive aptitude and they are fun social activities for seniors, too. According to the National Institute on AgingStaying cognitively active throughout life—via intellectual stimulation—is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Be Physically Active

Dancing, walking, yoga are activities that are more fun with others. Join a walking group. Take a yoga class or sign up for exercise classes at your local fitness center.

Volunteer or Mentor Others

Use the knowledge you have gained over a lifetime to help others by volunteering at your local hospital, high school, small business administration, soup kitchen or any place there may be a need. Recent studies show that older individuals who volunteer have a reduced risk of death compared to their counterparts who do not.

Learn more about senior volunteer opportunities:

Experience Corps AARP Foundation 1-202-434-6400, experiencecorps@aarp.org. Members tutor and mentor children in cities across the country and provide literacy coaching, homework help, and consistent role models, as well as committed, caring attention.

Senior Corps 1-800-942-2677 (toll-free) A program of the Corporation for National and Community Service that works with thousands of nonprofit organizations and local agencies—both secular and faith-based—to promote service opportunities for older Americans.

Finally, to improve social wellness you should also consider downsizing to an active senior living community. Aging within a senior community can alleviate feelings of isolation and the resulting negative health effects. In a residential community like Green Hill Senior Living, activities, clubs, entertainment and trips are provided. Classes in art, technology, academic subjects are available. Residents dine together and enjoy the company of a family of Green Hill team members whose mission it is to take the time to provide person directed care to each community member. Engaging in all the socially and cognitively rich activities offered at these communities leads to healthier and happier aging.

To learn more about the lifestyle and residential options available at Green Hill, please contact us today.