Social engagement is a critical component of healthy aging, but it can sometimes be difficult for seniors to find the opportunities to do so. A number of factors contribute to the issue, such as a shrinking social circle, leaving the workforce or even an illness. However, one couple in Michigan recently began an initiative to help themselves, and other retirees, reap the benefits of an active social life. Lorita and Ron Riedel reached out to a local church group and now host regular game nights - everything from bocce to board games. Their initiative has had a significant impact on their well being, reports The Macomb Daily.
A growing concern
A healthy lifestyle for seniors includes many different facets such as regular exercise and a nutritious diet, but people can sometimes overlook the importance of social connections. They help older adults stay mentally sharp and can also reduce feelings of loneliness and depression, which are often tied to a greater risk of disease and disability. As such, the Riedels' efforts have been applauded by experts such as Lynda J. Sperazza, a professor who is interested in how seniors spend their time after leaving their jobs.
"Recreation and leisure is still of utmost importance. It is critical to their self-concept and sense of well-being," she told the newspaper. "Game nights and boomer clubs are a means to be active, which is in sync to their values."
There are a many adverse health effects that can accompany feelings of loneliness. One recent study from the University of San Francisco found that older adults who reported feeling lonely experienced nearly a 25 percent decline in their ability to perform activities of daily living during the course of the research.
Boost to brain power
Cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease are some of the most pressing health issues facing the senior community, and an ample amount of research suggests that their levels of social interaction are closely tied to their mental health. According to the Alzheimer's Association, social activity is one of the most significant factors in preventing the disease. The organization points to a recent study of more than 800 people aged 75 and older that found people who combined social, physical and mental engagement had the lowest risk of developing Alzheimer's and other cognitive problems.