In our lives, we always hear how important exercise and a balanced diet are to keep our health going into old age, but it has only recently become clear how important it is to sustain our social lives. Chronic loneliness can have the same effect on our body as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
Benefits of being social
Social interaction leads to an improved quality of life. Being social can improve health and help individuals succeed through:
Fostering community: Employment, children, and spouse are essential aspects of one’s identity. Circumstances like retirement and adult children trigger significant personality changes and change the way you spend time. It can be destabilizing and hard to deal with. Yet becoming consistently socially involved will lead to the creation of new interactions, new relationships, and happiness-bringing activities. This allows you to build a community and a support system that will give you a new sense of belonging.
Restoring confidence. Having good relationships and getting involved in enjoyable activities can restore one’s sense of independence and confidence.
Improving physical health. By going to social events (at least, during pre COVID times), you are already more physically active by attending these events. Taking part in physical activity is essential for your wellbeing.
Improving cognitive health. Being socially active also activates our brain and cognitive functions. Holding your mind and body energized and maintaining positive relationships improves your mental, emotional, and physical health. This also reduces the risk of different medical conditions that have become more prevalent as one age.
The challenges of remaining social during COVID-19
As coronavirus cases make their way across the US, it can seem not easy to maintain social connections when everyone is trying to remain physically distanced.
We have been pursuing public health recommendations for months now to reduce their exposure by staying at home, recognizing that an infection may cause life-threatening complications. But sheltering at home often meant staying away from relatives, friends, and places that kept them involved and productive.
In this way, the COVID-19 self-isolation safety guidelines have inadvertently created new health risks by leaving many older adults even more socially isolated and inactive than ever before.
How to be more social during these uncertain times
Keeping in mind the many benefits of being social, what are some ways to increase your social activity while staying safe? Here are some ways to stay social:
Virtual class meetings or family gatherings: Remote video conferencing services like Zoom, as you would imagine, are your friend during these tough times. Is your annual family reunion planned for this year, or a high school or college reunion? Neither of these time-honored events needs to be canceled. You can do this online, instead of gathering in person.
Reconnect with your family in person (if safe): If you’re living with your immediate family, this is a great time to get back in touch. Even the most mundane tasks can lead to a semblance of order and normality so crucial during these tough times:
- Cook and eat dinner together
- Play games and puzzles with younger members of the family.
- Go for a walk in nature with a family member.
Exercising regularly: Even if you’re not able to join a gym right now, regular exercise is one of the best ways to feel healthy, happy, and ready to connect. Having your heart rate up every day for thirty minutes will boost your mood, lower your blood pressure, keep your body in shape, and improve mobility. Regular exercise, in turn, can boost your confidence, making it easier for you to stay connected to the people and the things that bring you joy in life.
Have socially distant gatherings: Many states are relaxing stay at home orders and allowing for small meetings. Think about having a small group about 1-2 friends or family members to come by, depending on your comfort level. However, state and local guidelines are still fluid, so ensure you’re staying on top of the latest updates regarding social distancing measures.
Hearing aids can help you stay connected.
Following the above advice is a more significant challenge for older Americans living with hearing loss. To get all the benefits of being social, you need to get your hearing treated. Hearing aids can help you communicate with family, friends, and new acquaintances more quickly and give you the courage to try new things.