Growing older for many is a gift. It is a culmination of years spent learning, evolving and developing skills and relationships. However, there are also many challenges, which present themselves in our later years particularly as our health becomes more frail. The more we can do to protect our health, the more we can rely on a healthy life for years ahead.
Even so there are events beyond our control. Often our mobility and energy become limited and our hearing begins to naturally decline. Despite a decline in ability, researchers find over and over again that it is essential to remain social and connected to the people in your life for ultimate physical and mental health as we age. This can be an extra challenge due to the pandemic, which causes many of us to social isolate.
The Importance of Being Social
Humans rely on social interaction no matter our age. However as we advance in years it is common for seniors to have less access to family, friends and people with shared interest. Now researchers at Brigham-Young University are finding that loneliness and isolation can have a huge impact on your longevity of life.
Researcher found that social isolation affects life span more than being obese. A similar study from the University of Chapel Hill North Carolina found that people who had less social stimulation suffered a 50 percent higher risk of death after a seven year follow up period. Psychologist Susan Pinker has found that in person human interaction and touch can trigger hormone oxytocin in our brain, which brings us joy.
Oxytocin has been found to lower the stress producing cortisol levels, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety. For older adults who have recently lost loved ones, or become immobile, or quarantined due to the pandemic, human touch can be very hard to achieve.
Ways to Stay Social
While social distancing is becoming the new normal, it is harder than ever for seniors to remain social. Here are a few ways to stay engaged despite the current state of affairs:
Reach out to those with shared interests: For seniors in a quarantined assisted living situation the benefit is that many peers surround you. This is a great time to reach out to others who have shared interests and hobbies. Start a club, or get into a hobby with others. The beauty of this is that you are helping each other stay social, healthy and happier.
Online Socializing: This is an important tool for seniors isolated due to the pandemic. Set up a regular time to video chat or call people in your life that you may be distanced from. Just checking in and letting them know you are thinking about them can make a huge difference. It is wonderful for your health and wonderful to keep in touch.
Exercise Regularly: Even if this is not the best time to join a gym there are so many exercises that you can do in the comfort of your home. Engage in an exercise routine online. Yoga, and Tai Chi are low impact while Zumba can be just stimulating.
There are certain gyms, which are offering classes online in real time over Zoom for added motivation. Getting your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes daily can increase your confidence, elevate your mood and lower your blood pressure, collectively boosting your mobility. When you feel healthy and confident being mobile, you are more likely to engage in social activities and stay connected.
Adopt a Pet: If you have to isolate for your own protection right now, and loneliness is getting the better of you, try adopting a pet. Experts have found that the act of nurturing can relieve feelings of social isolation.
Check Your Hearing
One of the most serious side effects of hearing loss is social isolation. When you can’t hear people around you, it can be a challenge to hold a conversation over the phone, online or in person. Make sure your hearing isn’t failing and schedule a hearing test. Our team can help you understand the extent of your hearing loss and help you find a solution to help you stay connected and mobile for years to come.