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Socialising to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health

Why socialising is important

Everybody knows that eating healthy and staying physically active enhances our quality of life, but being socially active throughout the later years of life will aid to improve your mental and physical health too. Studies have shown that socialising helps to keep our minds bright and reduces the risk of memory decline.

Being socially active

So what does “socially active” actually include? Well, having an active social life doesn’t necessarily mean having morning tea with friends every day or participating in regular community activities, although these are great social activities for some people. Socialising can also include being a volunteer, catching up with a neighbour, or visiting friends and family. Some people find it hard to leave the house. A phone call is also a form of socialising and can make a socially isolated person feel great.

In essence it means that socialising includes interactions with friends, family and the broader community. Dozens of studies show that people in general who have meaningful relationships with family, friends and their community are overall happier and healthier people.

elderly people at table playing boardgames

The health benefits of socialising as you age

According to the Mayo clinic, by socialising in your senior years, you reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairments such as dementia. It’s been found that older people who have social interactions every day are happier, have lower stress levels and are less likely to develop depression.

In saying that, reducing your risk of depression is only one of the many physical and cognitive benefits of socialising. Socialising helps many aspects of your physical health. Lonely and isolated people are less likely to get outdoors and engage in physical activity such as walking. If you don’t exercise, your physical health will suffer. Studies have also shown that by being physical and social you can reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, Osteoporosis and even arthritis.

Hurdles to socialising in later life

Losing your partner can add to social isolation too. The regular social activities that you did together, you mightn’t want to do on your own. Grief’s often overwhelming and it can cause you to withdraw from the social world, and may lead to depression. Many people struggle with the death of a spouse, older family members and old friends. After all, these are the people that you would’ve socialised with over time. If you find yourself feeling lonely and lacking in connections with people, there are many activities out there to help you get socialising and moving your body again.

Finding ways to overcome the hurdles that impact on your social life is a key challenge. Many older people develop chronic illnesses and physical limitations. People may also experience the onset of real or perceived cognitive decline as they age. If this is the case you might find that you need additional support by accessing aged care services. If you’re accessing aged care services already, you could also consider including a social activity into your home care package.

Without intervention, these obstacles to socialising won’t be overcome. A lack of socialising in many instances leads to the very difficulties that prevent it in the first place.

Developing a healthy social life

There’s no hard and fast rule to developing a healthy social life, but here are some options for you to consider:

Re-connect with the hobbies and interests that you enjoyed. For example if you used to go to church each week and you no longer drive, connect with your church and ask if someone can help you with transportation from time to time.

You could’ve enjoyed a regular game of gulf, but can’t get around the course anymore. Consider connecting with your old golf friends for lunch at the club house, or look at trying a new activity that’s suited to your physical limitations.

Why don’t you consider volunteering to become more social? If you’re lonely and socially isolated, there are many organisations that rely on volunteers to continue to function. Local hospitals, or community shops often need the help of volunteers.

Seeking help and support

With all of the best intentions, for various reasons some people find it too challenging to socialise and make connections. If you feel that you or a loved one needs help, it’s time to seek professional advice. Start by making contact with your G.P. and go from there. You can also contact Beyond Blue for support and advice on 1300 22 4636.

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