Live Vibrantly - September 26, 2019
By Kristine Jepsen
Social activities are more than just fun — they’re vital to our health and well-being as we age. As humans, we are naturally social beings who are not meant for isolation. In fact, social interactions and relationships are proven to have positive impacts on overall health and longevity.
High levels of stress can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. A research study of older residents in Hong Kong found that “those who spent more time cultivating social relationships had a significant drop in cortisol levels, your body’s natural stress hormone, during the day.” This finding could explain why positive relationships help you learn better, stay healthier, and live longer. By developing and strengthening your social ties, you can help limit the amount of cortisol in your body, which will improve your overall health.
Branching out and expanding your social network is not only beneficial to your social life, it can positively affect your longevity over time. Research has found that people who have more social ties tend to live longer regardless of their environment, health and socioeconomic background. Social interactions keep your brain engaged, whether it’s through small conversations or deep discussions. As you age, keeping your brain sharp and engaged is also crucial for combating certain diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Not only do loneliness and isolation feel bad, they also have harmful effects on your health and well-being. Older adults who are lonely often are at higher risk of depression and frequently have elevated systolic blood pressure. Older adults who are socially isolated are at an even higher risk for depression and disease, because they are not only less socially active, they are usually less physically active as well.
By maintaining an active social life and finding ways to grow your relationships, your overall health and happiness will greatly improve. Aging can take a toll on your physical and emotional health, so finding ways to bring joy and fulfillment into your life is crucial to thriving as you grow older. Interacting with and relating to others is one of the most meaningful and important things in life. So be sure to maintain your current relationships while expanding your social ties today with a simple “Hello.”
Kristine Jepsen is a writer and editor for literary journals online and in print, as well as a professional business counselor, Pilates and Oula! dance instructor, grant-writer, and brand content developer. Her work with Goodwin Living at Home centers on health and wellness along the aging continuum, covering topics as diverse as dating apps and financial scams. She lives on a farm in the Midwest with her horse-loving tween daughter and many four-legged friends, large and small.