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Published on: March 13, 2012
by Mark Underwood for The Good News About Aging:
It’s always good to have a variety of social activities in your life. Did you know that getting together with friends, going to the movies, having someone over for dinner or simply enjoying conversations with other people, all add up to improved health benefits?
Socializing can be a challenge for people who live alone and no longer drive or have health issues that limit their ability to get out of the house. Still, there are many ways to include people in your life so loneliness doesn’t set in. When you live alone you feel alone and non-socialization can affect your mind and body.
Many people enjoy spending some time alone but after a while an isolated, stay-at-home lifestyle can lead to depression and declining health as the musculoskeletal system declines.
To have a healthy aging life, exercise, eat right and socialize! A new study found that older adults who stay connected socially are more likely to retain their memories and cognitive abilities later in life. The take-home message from the recently published study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior is that we need a variety of brain stimulation, including social activity, to keep our minds sharp. This is especially true later in life, when aging takes its toll on memory and other complex neurological processes.
Researchers analyzed data over several years of 1,667 adults older who were 60 –years-old and older. They looked at the likelihood of participants engaging in social activities with friends and family, joining clubs, and going to social engagements. The study also examined cognitive ability, memory acuity as people socialized more often. While we often ‘feel’ better after a good visit with family or friends, this study concluded that we may actually be improving our health with social activities.
Older adults who were less socially active than who were socially active had both cognitive and physical limitations. The results are stunning; the socially active group had healthier brain scans, and seemed to be better protected from aging over time. As scientists gain ground in unlocking the mysteries of aging and neurology, we understand that we have some control over our cognitive and physical health.
So eat well, exercise and your health will benefit. But you should also socialize. By doing so you will not only enjoy the company of people around you, you will keep your brain stimulated.
Tips for Increasing Social Activity and Better Brain Health
Try new ways of meeting people. Join a book club, a card group, church choir or volunteer at a local hospital, shelter or food pantry. Anything you can think of that gets you out of the house and enjoying the world around you is a benefit to healthy aging.
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