No man is an island; we are social creatures, and our networks are essential to healthy living. We love to share tender moments with friends and family, to get together for parties or a barbecue, to celebrate a birth or marriage with togetherness. Seniors are no exception to this rule; there are a plethora of studies that show social seniors lead healthier lives. The reasons for this are multifaceted, so let’s take a look at how staying social can improve the lives of you and your loved ones.
One researcher, Dr. Yvonne Michael, studied the effects of social capital on the health of seniors. Social capital is, in essence, a measure of how connected you are; the more trusting, reciprocal relationships you have, the more social capital you have. This means that if you’re living in a neighborhood where you can trust your neighbors, and where people will pitch in to help each other out, your social capital is higher than if you live somewhere with neighbors that don’t interact. One study by Dr. Michael showed that people living in neighborhoods with high social capital had significantly higher mobility than those living in less friendly neighborhoods. This is because it’s easy to go for a walk when you trust your neighbors; it’s also more likely that your walk will be shoveled and ice free, and that if you fall, someone will be there to help you. Seniors living in such an area are much more likely to go walking, which improves their physical fitness and mobility.
Dr. Michael also noted that high social capital neighborhoods lead to more screening and preventive health measures. Neighbors who talk and care about one another are likely to encourage each other to see the doctor when concerning symptoms present themselves, and are better at keeping each other informed about potential health risks. Earlier diagnostics mean better prognoses for most illnesses.
Other studies have found that cognitive decline is significantly slowed in social seniors; “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is the age old adage, and it rings true for our minds as well as for our bodies. This means consistent socializing is invaluable; it creates a positive feedback loop, as increased cognition may increase the likeliness of socializing, which decreases cognitive decline. People who socialize are also significantly less at risk for developing disabilities as they age; community really is a cure-all for many problems that plague seniors.
This means that for many seniors, living at home can be an invaluable tool for increasing socialization. Living at home means you can accept guests at any time, and you remain in your neighborhood; as we’ve seen, good neighbors are priceless. There is personalized home health care in Winnipeg; this means that even if you have medical impairments that could hamper your ability to take care of yourself, living at home is still an option. An active social life helps you physically and mentally, so there’s no doubt that home care can improve your life.