Senior living options provide socialization opportunities for older adults, from community service outings to game and movie nights geared toward fostering friendships between residents. Making friends is integral to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for seniors, as sustained peer contact has been scientifically proven to lead to a number of physical and emotional benefits.
Seniors who engage in frequent interactions with their friends are more likely to bounce back mentally and physically, according to a recent study conducted by John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago. Loneliness, he concluded, was more likely to adversely affect one's health than obesity. Cacioppo studied a group of older adults and found that those who were more socially involved were likely to experience healthy aging, emotional stability and lower mortality risks. According to The Independent, Cacioppo detailed in the findings how self-imposed social isolation can negatively affect seniors.
"As people age and lose mobility, they are at an increased risk of chronic loneliness, which would threaten the person's well-being almost immediately, and would increase their odds for depression, compromised immunity, and fatigue due to poorer quality sleep - all of which could hasten their aging," Cacioppo said, as quoted by the source.
Research published in the American Journal of Public Health found that seniors with a wide network of peers were less likely to experience cognitive decline. Scientists studied a group of more than 2,000 seniors who did not show signs of dementia for four years and found that older adults who had more frequent interactions with their friends were less likely to be diagnosed with the disease. Valerie Crooks, the study's lead author, explained to the AARP that this decrease in risk is due to the fact that social interactions keep the brain actively engaged.
"If you stay connected, you have a better shot," Crooks said. "Whenever we have even the most basic exchange, we have to think about how to respond, and that stimulates the brain."
Higher quality of life
The Annals of Family Medicine published the results of a trial in which seniors who were diagnosed as at-risk for developing depression reported a significant improvement in their quality of life after joining a social program. Seniors who participated in DeLLITE, which provided seniors regular social visits for 12 months, detailed at the end of the study that after being visited several times a week, they were happier overall.