By Mark Underwood
It’s always good to have a variety of social activities in your life. Did you know that getting together with friends, going to the movies, having someone over for dinner, or simply enjoying conversations with other people all add up to improved health benefits?
Socializing can be a challenge for people who live alone and no longer drive or have health issues that limit their ability to get out of the house. Still, there are many ways to include people in your life so loneliness doesn’t set in. When you live alone you feel alone and non-socialization can affect your mind and body. Many people enjoy spending some time alone but after a while an isolated, stay-at-home lifestyle can lead to depression and declining health as the musculoskeletal system declines.
To have a healthy aging life, exercise, eat right and socialize! A new study found that older adults who stay connected socially are more likely to retain their memories and cognitive abilities later in life. The take-home message from the recently published study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior is that we need a variety of brain stimulation, including social activity, to keep our minds sharp. This is especially true later in life, when aging takes its toll on memory and other complex neurological processes.
Researchers analyzed data over several years of 1,667 adults who were 60 years and older. They looked at the likelihood of participants engaging in social activities with friends and family, joining clubs, and going to social engagements. The study also examined cognitive ability, memory acuity as people socialized more often. While we often ‘feel’ better after a good visit with family or friends, this study concluded that we may actually be improving our health with social activities.
Older adults who were less socially active than those who were socially active had both cognitive and physical limitations. The results are stunning; the socially active group had healthier brain scans, and seemed to be better protected from aging over time. As scientists gain ground in unlocking the mysteries of aging and neurology, we understand that we have some control over our cognitive and physical health.
So eat well, exercise and your health will benefit. But you should also socialize. By doing so you will not only enjoy the company of people around you, you will keep your brain stimulated.
Tips for Increasing Social Activity and Better Brain Health;
• Be active, both physically and mentally. Read every day, walk every day.
• Avoid sitting home alone day after day. If you can’t get out due to health restrictions, invite people to come and visit. Sometimes people need to be “invited” because they don’t want to drop by unannounced.
• Prioritize having a social life no matter where you live or how you feel. You don’t have to have numerous social events on the calendar. Any time that you are with other people is a social event. Looking forward to getting together with friends and family is part of the fun. Remember, being with other people is good for your health.
• Be a planner. Every day plan some activity that will allow you to talk to other people—in person if possible. If you have the mobility, go to a shopping mall and chat with people who work in the store. Shopping, even window shopping, is a good way to strike up a conversation about products and items in front of you.
Try new ways of meeting people. Join a book club, a card group, church choir, or volunteer at a local hospital, shelter or food pantry. Anything you can think of that gets you out of the house and enjoying the world around you is a benefit to healthy aging.
Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president, and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company located in Madison, Wisconsin focused on the discovery and development of medicines to treat age related memory loss and the diseases of aging. Mark has been taped as an expert in the field of neuroscience for The Wall Street Journal Morning Radio, CBS, and CNN Radio among others. Underwood is also a contributor to the “Brain Health Guide” which highlights the research at Quincy Bioscience and offers practical tips to help keep health brain function in aging. Visit www.TheGoodNewsAboutAging.com for more articles and tips for healthy aging.