While exercise, eating healthy, and quitting smoking are important steps for a long, healthy life, good relationships can also increase your lifespan. People with strong social relationships increase their odds of survival by 50% over time.
Aging presents physical and mental health challenges making social isolation rampant among older adults who lose mobility, lack transportation, or live away from family. Social isolation can lead to an increase in depression, loneliness, and even a shorter lifespan.
The Severity of Depression and Loneliness as You Age
Socialization and inclusion are fundamental needs of humans. Without it, people suffer from depression, stress, and even death. Loneliness can pose a significant health risk similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. A 2013 study found social isolation and loneliness may cause a higher risk of mortality.
Loneliness and isolation can also impact your mental health and cognitive abilities. Depression in later years has been associated with dementia and cognitive impairment. Those with cognitive limitations could experience depression as a result, or those with depression could be at a higher risk of developing dementia. Depression can also be more common in those with other illnesses present. Being aware of the risks of social isolation and taking important steps to encourage social activities is essential.
Tips for Staying Active and Engaged
To combat depression and loneliness with age, consider the following tips to stay active, engaged, and involved in the community.
Local Senior Centers and Programs
Many communities offer programs and services through local senior centers for older adults to engage with others and learn new hobbies. This can include board games, exercise, gardening, and volunteering, such as spending time with children or teens. To find programs in your area, reach out to your local senior center, municipal community groups, church, temple, or mosque.
For those who have a difficult time leaving their home, virtual senior centers are becoming more popular. While there’s nothing like face-to-face interactions, video chats can be a great supplement for people with physical limitations or those without friends or family nearby.
Get Comfortable with Technology
Technology has helped make dealing with the challenges of aging easier. Brain fitness apps on phones or tablets and help improve focus and memory while speeding up visual processing. These apps can help keep older adults engaged, learning, and their minds sharp.
In situations when friends or family live far away, face time or Skype can offer a partial face-to-face interaction to maintain relationships. For older adults with vision, hearing, or cognitive declines, technology can be a great way to keep them comfortably engaged in the world around them.
Use Ride-Share Programs
Some older adults may be homebound and isolated due to transportation challenges. Ride-sharing programs such as Lyft or Uber can be a great resource to get out of the house and engage in activities.
Lyft has several partnerships with health care companies and care communities to make transportation more accessible. These services allow older adults to make a brief phone call for a ride instead of through the app, reducing any technology barriers.
At LTC Consumer, we help individuals and families prepare for getting older with long term care planning. Speak with an LTC Specialist today to learn about your Long Term Care Insurance options to pay for care services.