Improved Longevity: Stay Active and Connected, Experts Say
Experts say, stay active and connected for improved longevity. Social connection is essential for not only a healthy lifestyle but helping to maintain our overall well being. Unfortunately, as we grow older, we often overlook the importance of staying socially connected. This is dangerous as isolation and loneliness are associated with poor health and higher rates of mortality. There is strong evidence suggesting the effect of social isolation on health is of similar magnitude to other health risks such as high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity. Seniors, in particular, are vulnerable to social isolation because established relationships change over time. For example, children grow up and move away. Friends relocate or pass away. Mobility may become an issue causing a decline in motivation to remain social. According to a CVS study Path to Better Health, 25% of adults aged 65 and older no longer have friends or family nearby and don’t know where to meet new people.
The potential health impact of loneliness is alarming especially for older adults. People who are lonely convey negativity or push others away because of perceived rejection, which only reinforces their isolation. For total health – body, mind, and spirit – seniors must be active at seeking out social interaction. Dr. Robert Mirsky, Chief Medical Officer for Aetna Medicare, helps seniors live the life they want to live at home and in their communities. He shares some great tips to help you stay socially and emotionally healthy.
Many programs exist to help seniors connect. Local senior centers, for example, have daily planned activities and put their calendar of events online. Activities might include a chess club, book club, or fun day trips to name just a few. See if anything interests you and keep an open mind as you brainstorm ways to connect. Look for volunteer opportunities with your church. Check the library for teaching programs such as help with technology, for example. This could help you connect with grandkids and family from a distance. Losing interest in socialization is common as we grow older. However, the negative outcomes and mortality rates from isolation are far too great to stay in that mindset. Question your assumptions and if possible seek behavior therapy to help you identify negative patterns of behavior and thoughts that impact your emotions and beliefs.
Start by making a list of physical activities that you enjoy doing. Do you like hiking, taking a group exercise class, or golfing? Senior centers have group activities like yoga or pickleball that get you active and meet new people. According to research, participation in the popular fitness program, SilverSneakers, has shown to improve health outcomes by reducing loneliness and isolation by 20-25%. SilverSneakers also hosts classes called “Beyond the Gym,” at community centers, churches, parks, and also offers online classes. Adopting a pet can also open opportunities for activity and interacting with others. Studies have proven that pet ownership reduces loneliness and stress while improving overall well-being and happiness. Check out the Seniors for Seniors program which places senior pets with senior citizens.
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