The Secret to a Longer, Healthier Life for 55 and Over Communities? Social Engagement.

August 19, 2022
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Social engagement

How social relationships in 55 and over communities help keep the brain and body healthy, active, and ready for the next chapter of life.

Science has developed some interesting new findings when it comes to health and wellness, especially for those in the 55 and over age group. More and more research indicates that social health may be just as beneficial as physical health when it comes to longevity.

While most of us are aware that positive friendships and good mental health lead to a healthier body and mind, we may be underestimating just how impactful these social interactions can be. One analysis suggests that boosting social ties is the equivalent of quitting smoking in terms of health benefits. It even goes as far to say that a solid social network can be even healthier than overcoming obesity or finding a regular exercise routine (though we see the value in doing both!)  So how, exactly, does socializing increase our lifespan? The answer is worth diving into.

Socialization Keeps Your Brain Sharp

Loneliness hurts! There is clear-cut evidence showing how loneliness increases the risk of dying earlier for the majority of the population. This is especially true for those in the 55 and over demographic, a stage of life where many may find themselves living alone and no longer connected to a close circle of friends.

The good news is that this trend is easily reversible! Those with a tight-knit community and strong friendships are less likely to develop cognitive problems. Some studies even show that those with solid friendships decreased their risk of dementia by 40%. Social interactions allow individuals to keep their brains sharp by performing more daily activities, getting out of a mundane routine, participating in stimulating conversation, and seeing scenarios from another point of view.

Friendships Lower Your Risk of Disease

Not only do positive social interactions make our bodies and brains happier, but they also decrease our risk of disease! Research indicates that positive social interactions can decrease your risk of disease, including arthritis and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, coronary arteries, stomach function, insulin regulation, and immune system function improved with solid friendships and regular community support.

Caring relationships and friendships are thought to decrease the stress hormone and lower levels of inflammation, which are commonly attributed to these diseases, especially for those in the 55 and over age group. These stats give us a reality check and the important reminder that social time with friends isn’t only good for our mental health, it is directly impacting how well the body functions.

Community Increases Your Activity Level

Friends not only decrease stress and increase brain activity, but they also can increase your physical activity level. Positive friendships can encourage a healthier lifestyle, by discouraging excessive drinking and isolation and promoting regular exercise and community involvement.

Those over 55 with a supportive community are more likely to participate in social outdoor activities, such as pickleball, hiking and walking groups, and sports teams. Additionally, those with strong social ties are more apt to try something new, such as a yoga class, if they have a friend by their side.

Prioritizing Health at Any Age

For those in the 55 and over demographic, friendship and socialization are more important than ever. At OakwoodLife, we understand the importance of inspiring healthy decision-making. That’s why our Lifestyle Directors do everything in their power to assist you in designing inclusive, social Lifestyle Programs that ensure you have access to resources that make it easy to decide on healthy, active choices every single day.

From our state-of-the-art fitness centers to the emphasis on a community that cultivates friendship, we are here to support your healthy lifestyle as you navigate this exciting, new chapter of life. To learn more about how OakwoodLife provides lifestyle programs for active adult communities in Colorado and Utah, reach out! We look forward to supporting you on your journey to your best years yet.