Social Connections in Assisted Living and Enhanced Senior Wellness
People over the age of 65 are particularly vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. An estimated 25 percent of the population of the United States over the age of 65 is considered socially isolated, with a real propensity to experience loneliness. The reality of social isolation among seniors underscores the important role assisted living communities to play in our society today. Assisted living offers the opportunity for seniors to develop meaningful social connections that in turn, enhance their overall wellness.
Health Risks of Social Isolation and Loneliness
Extensive research studies consistently conclude that social isolation and loneliness increase seniors’ risk of premature death. In addition, social isolation and loneliness also increase the risk of several serious health conditions that include:
- Heart disease
A growing pool of research indicates that reducing social isolation and loneliness can increase a person’s life length. In other words, individuals with strong social connections live longer than those who do not have these types of interrelationships with others.
Assisted Living and Socialization
Recognizing the importance of socialization for seniors, assisted living communities are designed to help older adults connect in a meaningful manner. Fitness classes, social events, lifelong learning opportunities, clubs, and interest groups encourage assisted living community residents to do the things they enjoy in the company of others.
A reality of life in assisted living is that neighbors become friends. Remember that family members and longtime friends are always welcome to visit an assisted living community resident.
In an assisted living community, where social connections are important and prioritized, seniors who previously may have been isolated reap many benefits of social interaction. These benefits of consistent social interaction include:
- Increased happiness
- Enhanced satisfaction with life
- Improved mental health
- Enhanced ability to cope
- Higher self-esteem
- Improved quality of life
The Harvard Study of Adult Development involves over 80 years of long-term research. This comprehensive research study found that relationships were more important to happiness than things like money or fame. The study found a strong association between participants’ sense of flourishing and their relationships with friends, family, and community. Overall, the Harvard Study of Adult Development underscores that quality of life can vastly be improved when people, including seniors, have stronger social connections. It is precisely these meaningful social connections that can be cultivated and enjoyed in an assisted living community.
Enhanced Satisfaction With Life
A study concluded that people who set a goal to connect more with others reported a greater boost in their life satisfaction. Examples of such a goal are spending more time with friends and family and making it a point to get to know some new people. This research study concluded that when people met that type of socialization goal, they enjoyed a higher level of satisfaction than those who met other types of individual goals like staying healthy or quitting smoking.
Improved Mental Health
Membership in a group or having regular interaction and the ability to socialize with others helps protect against depression. For people who are depressed, joining a social group reduced their risk of depression relapse by 24 percent. The more types of social groups a person engages in, the greater the reduction of the risk of depression relapse. That risk can be reduced by connecting with multiple social groups by 63 percent. Assisted living offer residents a wide array of different types of socialization options, including various types of group opportunities for people who reside in these communities.
Enhanced Ability to Cope
People with a strong support network are better able to cope in the event of some types of unexpected life changes. This particularly is the case for seniors who can face significant life changes, including the sudden death of a spouse or friend. Assisted living is a great base for a senior to establish strong relationships that provide vital support when unexpected life changes occur.
At every age across the course of a lifetime, positive social relationships boost self-esteem. The relationship between self-esteem and social support creates a feedback loop. Social acceptance boosts self-esteem, which in turn, improves social acceptance. It does create a healthy cycle for people from all walks of life, including men and women in their Golden Years.
Improved Quality of Life
According to research studies, spending time with a greater variety of people leads older adults to enjoy higher activity levels. This is because they connect with others through activities like shopping, attending church, visiting friends, etc. These connections foster a higher quality of life. These interpersonal connections can also lead to improved mood, fewer negative feelings, and a less sedentary lifestyle. All of this supports physical health and function. The nature of an assisted living community allows for this level of variety regarding opportunities for seniors to interact and socialize.
As a final note, electing to move into assisted living does not mean you lose contact with friends you had before transitioning into this type of community. Yes, you will have the opportunity to make new social connections when you move into assisted living. However, there is no reason your existing friendships need to be negatively impacted.
There will be activities, programs, and events at an assisted living community where you will be welcome to invite friends and family members. You can have your friends visit you at your assisted living home as you desire. Moreover, you will be able to continue spending time with your existing friends outside your assisted living community as you desire.