Renae Diggles

June 12, 2024

Loneliness in Older People: Engaging in Social Groups

Renae Diggles

June 12, 2024

Spending time with others typically makes you feel good. Whether it’s cooking, exercising or participating in games, social groups have positive outcomes for seniors. When people socialise they tend to forget about other stresses for that moment in time. Generally, you’ll have a sense of feeling positive if you’re around people that you feel comfortable with. Loneliness in older people is common, and socialising can bring about positive outcomes.

Factors Affecting Loneliness in Older People

As people age, life has new challenges. These challenges tend to reduce exposure to activities with friends, family and the wider community. The changes start when children leave the nest and start families of their own.

As a progression from there, many people retire and then lose connection with their work colleagues and often their sense of purpose. With retirement also comes downsizing the home, and leaving all that was once familiar including neighbourhood friends.

And the older you get, the more likely you are to have health complications. Whether it’s physical impairment or chronic disease, your health can definitely impact on your ability to remain social.

Social Groups Have Positive Outcomes For Seniors

Although the potential to slow down in the later years is apparent, the benefits of staying social are great.

By seeking involvement in meaningful activities you’ll not only get the opportunity to socialise but to contribute and gain a sense of self-worth. Research suggests a positive link between social interaction and health and well-being for older people.

One reason that good health’s linked with socialisation is because people who socialise are typically more active. For example, older adults who regularly look after their grandchildren are generally happier and more active in their lives.

Socialising also encourages being active, which means there’s double the health benefits. Victoria’s State Government’s “Better Health Channel” acknowledges the benefits of walking for seniors, and suggests that walking is a great way to get out and meet people and enjoy with friends.

Social Activity

Socialising doesn’t mean that you’re run off your feet all the time, with no time to yourself. It’s simply involving yourself with friends, family and the broader community. Many studies have shown that people who have relationships that mean something are overall happier and healthier people.

Health Benefits of Socialising

In an article by the IntegraCare, it suggested that older people who socialise can maintain and even improve cognitive function. It also looks at factors that can help with feelings of loneliness and depression, including emational support and boosted self esteem.

Isolated people are much less likely to be physically active which consequently impacts on their health. By being physically active, your overall health can improve, and you can reduce the risks of co-morbidities such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and arthritis.

Overcoming Social Isolation as You Age

whether it’s loss or illness, there’s several reasons that older adults become socially isolated. If one partner passes away, suddenly all of those activities that you once did together you’ll have to face alone. Withdrawing from these activities that you once did together is common, and possibly engaging in new activities is a solution if it’s too difficult to enter back into those environments.

Chronic illness is also a roadblock to socialising. For those with limited mobility, there’s additional support available to help you get out and about. By calling “My Aged Care” you can arrange an ACAT assessment to get started with accessing aged care support services.

Positive impacts of Socialising

Maintaining social interaction is essential for your physical and mental health as you age. It’s good for your immune system as it gets a boost from the positivity resultant from social interaction. Some of the physical and mental benefits of socialising include increased energy levels, creating a desire to be more physically active. Furthermore, socialising potentially lowers blood pressure, improves cognition, and reduces the risk of common chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease too.

For many reasons people can find it challenging to socialise and connect with others. Initially try and think of activities that would suit you. It’s possible that volunteering, joining an exercise class or participating in regular activities is for you. But if you feel that you need extra help to start socialising it’s probably a good time to seek professional help from your G.P. as a starting point.

For those who’re in need of immediate support and advice, you can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

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