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Benefits of Being Social for Older Americans

Social engagement is vital throughout our entire lives. Its importance is often emphasized during the early stages of life as we are developing our identity. But beyond identity formation, social interaction continues to be a major way we understand and move through the world. Being social and social wellness more broadly refers to engaging with others and our ability to make and maintain healthy relationships.

Remaining socially active is particularly important and beneficial for older adults. In addition to physical exercise, being socially active significantly contributes to your well-being and overall health. Social engagement can improve your mental and emotional health, general happiness, and help you navigate the changes you may be navigating as you age.

Importance for Older Adults

As you age, it is common to experience significant changes that require you to make major adjustments in your life. This can include:

  • Retirement
  • Impairments to hearing and eyesight
  • Physical mobility becomes challenging
  • Medical conditions and medication
  • Death of spouse or relative

Experiencing any of these changes can be incredibly challenging both emotionally and physically. It can lead to less independence as you increasingly need help managing your responsibilities on a day to day basis. This can cause you to feel a range of emotions including frustration, anger, and depression. Coping with these feelings can be overwhelming. A useful way to process and navigate these changes is by creating and nurturing a thriving social life.

Benefits of Being Socially Active

Life changing in these significant ways requires you to create new ways of living, may challenge your identity, and provide you with more time than you have had before. Being socially active can help you process these changes healthily and encourages longevity by:

  • Renewing identity: people often define themselves by their career, children, and relationship. As one ages and experiences retirement, children becoming adults, and possibly the loss of a spouse; your identity as having a specific profession, being a parent, and partner may be challenged. Engaging in social activities allows you to develop hobbies, new interests, and explore curiosities.
  • Creating sense of belonging: by being social and engaging with others, you are able to cultivate new relationships and support systems. Building and belonging to a community helps create purpose and can make you feel more connected. Having this kind of grounding can really help you manage all the changes and adjustments you are making.
  • Improving Overall Health: having renewed identity and a greater sense of belonging can enhance your confidence, independence, and general happiness. This positively impacts your emotional and mental health. Also, participating in social activities keeps your body and brain energized.

Own Your Social Wellness

There are many ways to have a thriving social life as you age! Owning your social wellness by being active can enhance your quality of life. A few ways you can be socially active are:

  • Join a club: think about the activities you enjoy doing or have always wanted to try: reading, playing a sport, board games etc. There are often groups that are organized around a shared interest that you can join. This is a great way to meet people who enjoy similar activities you.
  • Continuing education: many colleges or community centers provide classes specifically for older adults who are interested in continuing to learn. This includes: pottery, ceramics, language, and computer programs. This is a great way to stimulate your brain and develop new skills!
  • Join a fitness center: this is a perfect way to maintain physical fitness. Gyms and community centers typically offer exercise opportunities such a yoga, water aerobics, and zumba for older adults.
  • Become a volunteer: various organizations and places are always looking for volunteers. Volunteering is an amazing way to give back to your community and meet other people. Check out your local hospital, animal shelter, food bank, and elementary school.

As you age and life changes, your identity and how you relate to everything also changes. This is often really hard to deal with because it requires you to find new ways to spend your time and people to spend your time with. Engaging in social activities and building new relationships with others can help you renew your sense of purpose and belonging.

Jon Suarez, MS, F/AAA
Jon Suarez, MS, F/AAA
Received his Masters in Audiology from Central Missouri State. He also holds a BS in Communication Disorders and Sciences, and a BA in Philosophy, both from SUNY Plattsburgh. Jon has been a licensed Audiologist since 2004, was certified as a Professional Supervisor for Audiometric Testing, and as an Occupational Hearing Conservationist. Aside from his work in our area, Jon is also associated with, and donates equipment to, All Ears International.
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