These days we know mental health is just as important as eating right and exercising. But still, nearly one-fourth of adults over the age of 65 are considered to be socially isolated (according to a report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine). Evidence suggests that this isolation and subsequent feelings of loneliness are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia, heart disease, and other life-threatening conditions. So, how can seniors who are experiencing isolation counter these risks? Answer: Socialization.
Though the answer is simple, it may seem easier said than done, especially if you have preexisting conditions that limit your ability to get out of the house. Nevertheless, experts agree that socializing is good for your mind and body. In addition to fending off loneliness, socializing helps refine your memory and cognitive skills. It increases your sense of well-being and makes for happier days.
Socializing is good for your mind and body.Mayo Clinic Minute: The benefits of being socially connected
Socialization is vital to combat feelings of loneliness or loss of self-worth. But, how do you do it when you’re over 55? Well, there’s more than one way…
1. Get on social media.
Sites like Facebook or Twitter can keep you connected with family and friends who live far away. You can use these platforms to share pictures, write notes, and chat. You can find old friends or even new friends. Join groups to meet others with the same interests or hobbies. Follow community pages to stay up-to-date on the latest local info.
Want to have fun, make new friends, and give to a cause that’s close to your heart? Then try volunteering! Here are some great organizations to get involved with:
3. Join a club.
Like to work with your hands? Do you enjoy reading? Maybe gardening? Then check out your local community center or library for special interest clubs to join! You might also consider joining a local chapter of a national club like:
4. Get a part-time job.
Just because you’re retired, doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer the workforce. You have a life full of experience and skills! A part-time job can be fun, get you out of the house, and provide opportunities to make new friends while bringing in a little extra cash.
5. Adopt a pet.
Pets can add support and a sense of purpose to anyone’s life. Your pet can be your best friend and provide opportunities to meet others through walking, obedience classes, or visiting places like dog parks. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some great resources that help seniors adopt animals:
6. Take an exercise class.
Exercise classes give you the opportunity to meet new people, get together with friends, and stay healthy. Check out the Silver Sneakers website for senior-specific programs near you!
7. Update to a smartphone.
We get it – your house phone works just fine. But, we promise, once you switch to a smartphone, you won’t ever want to go back! With a smartphone, you can make calls, learn how to text, and keep in touch with social apps! And, by the way, if you’re a member of AARP, most of the big-name cell companies offer senior discounts!
8. Take a class.
You’re never too old to learn something new! Learning a new skill can help keep your mind sharp. Nowadays, many colleges offer online and in-person classes for aging adults! Some are tuition-free and some are discounted. If you’re interested in learning something new and meeting others, then start here!
9. Get involved with your church.
Churches don’t just provide a place to worship. They also foster community and age-specific group programs, clubs, and other volunteer opportunities. If you’re not sure where to start, simply walk through your church’s front door and ask!
Okay, this may not be for the faint-of-heart, but it’s surely for the young-at-heart! As long as your personal health is in good standing, babysitting can be a great change of pace and will help you stay active and social. There is plenty you can teach a younger generation, and you may be surprised what they teach you!
11. Shop with a neighbor or friend.
Grocery shopping can often be a mundane task. Liven it up by taking someone with you! Walking up and down the aisles won’t be quite as boring when you have a buddy to chat with. And, bonus, you’ll get help loading and unloading your car!
12. If you’re single, then get involved with a singles group!
Your local community center, church, or even a coffee shop may host singles groups. These are basically clubs that organize get-togethers or outings for those who may not have a significant other or who have been widowed. If you fall into those categories and may be feeling a little shy about “getting out there,” a singles group might be perfect for you!
13. Consider moving to an active adult community.
Retirement communities are a great place to connect and stay connected with others who are around your age and love doing the same things. An active adult retirement community usually features monthly planned activities and outings. Many offer on-site clubhouses and sports clubs.
Whether you’re traveling alone or with a spouse, going to new places is an easy way to try different things and meet some people along the way. If you’re adventurous, try out an agency like Elder Treks or Walking The World. If you’re not sure where to go, check out your local travel agencies for help!
15. Become a seasonal camper.
Campgrounds and RV parks are full of sun, family fun, and relaxation. And, you don’t always have to travel far to be a camper! Many campgrounds will rent seasonal lots to those with trailers. Just park your place, and come and go as you please for the whole summer.
16. Audit a class.
Maybe you’re not quite ready for all that going “back to school” offers. Maybe you’re just not ready for the commitment. Well, many colleges will allow seniors to audit classes as long as there is space available! This can allow you the opportunity to try something new without having to pay and likely connect with some younger students at the same time.
17. Join a MeetUp.
MeetUp is an online community where people who share the same interests organize events online and in person. It’s free to create an account. And, yes, there are groups for seniors!
18. Go to a movie during the day.
A movie theater might not sound like a place to be social. After all, you sit silently in the dark for about two hours. However, consider this: theaters have concession stands, lounges, and today, some even have bars. Whether you go alone or with a partner, at the very least, you won’t be bored!
19. Learn to play an instrument.
Never too old to learn? Yep – still true. Visit a local music store and pick out something you’ve always wanted to try. Then, sign up for a class!
20. Join up with a community garden.
Many communities have gardens that local residents build and maintain together. Check local community centers and their websites for information on how to get involved!
21. Go to the park.
Take a walk down the street. Grab a cup of coffee. Then, continue that walk right through the local park. If you meet anyone along the way – great. If you don’t, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy your exercise. Either way, it’s going to be a good experience for your health!
22. Go to an adult day service.
Programs are designed to provide supervised care and promote quality of life for both participants and their families. At an adult day service, you’ll be given plenty of opportunities to socialize and engage in different activities or even outings. Many facilities even provide transportation to and from!