From birth, humans have the instinct to express themselves and engage with others. It is an instinct that remains crucial throughout life.
For older adults, maintaining regular social interactions and engagements is encouraged as changes may occur with retirement, a new schedule, moving, being apart from certain family members or friends, and/or physical health. Companionship and activities with others can provide comfort and stability through life changes.
Some changes can lead to depression, feelings of sadness and loneliness, and/or self-isolating behaviors. For those who struggle with loneliness or self-isolation, it is important to recognize that those feelings are there and to let someone know.
Why Social Engagement is Necessary
Research studies suggest that there is a strong correlation between older adults’ emotional and physical health and how social they are in their daily lives. The Alzheimer’s Association has stated that brain vitality can best be maintained through physical and mental activities that involve social engagement, along with a brain-healthy diet.
The Mayo Clinic stated in a 2016 article that having friends in one’s life can increase sense of belonging and purpose, boost happiness and reduce stress, improve self-confidence and self worth, help with coping through traumas, and encourage positive lifestyle habits.
Ways to Increase Engagement and Make Friends
To increase social interactions, try to spend time in spaces where others are engaging in group activities. Taking on activities and setting goals add senses of purpose to daily life.
Engaging activities could include:
- Playing cards or table games
- Making puzzles
- Creating art
- Using technology to connect with others
- Taking a class
- Going on a trip
- Watching a movie
- Listening to or watching a musician or entertainer
- Dining with others
- Participating in discussion groups about interests, activities or hobbies
Helping out with a cause and/or taking care of a pet are two additional ways that seniors can find a sense of purpose and stay engaged. Having pride about a job well done or a person or animal cared for can lift up spirits and brighten daily life.
It can also be beneficial to reach out to old friends, either by phone, the computer, or mail. Try to let go of the feeling or worry that old friends may be too busy to talk and focus on the great joy that reconnecting would bring.
Note: Each individual should follow the advice of their medical professionals or doctors and speak with them before making changes to diet and/or exercise.