1022 North Union Street | Middletown, PA 17057

How independent living helps older adults stay socially active

My father, a pharmacist, retired in his late 50s when he sold his independent drug store. And then he went right back to work.

He did what is called “relief work,” meaning he worked a day here and a day there for other pharmacists who needed relief from the daily 9-to-9 grind.

In fact, he worked into his late 70s, by then working for a mail-order pharmacy. He wasn’t fond of computers but he liked compounding prescriptions—that is, filling capsules by hand—which a lot of younger pharmacists eschewed, a perfect match. That schedule also afforded plenty of time for travel and play with grandchildren.

For many older adults, retirement is much more than choosing senior independent-living accommodations and then spending one’s days just relaxing. For most, retirement is about staying physically active, remaining engaged within the community and learning new things. These older adults view retirement as an opportunity not only to do some part-time work—if that’s what they would like to do—but also everything they’ve always wanted to do but never had time for.

All of these pursuits lead to staying socially active—one of the best parts of independent living. In fact, being socially active has a wide range of health benefits. According to an article in Psychology Today, research outlines potential concrete benefits for older adults, including:

● Improved physical health. It’s suggested that social engagement helps to ensure a stronger immune system, helping seniors to fight off colds, the flu and, according to the article, some types of cancer.

● A longer lifespan. The article notes that those who spend more time with others and have supportive relationships—and are therefore not isolated—tend to live longer than others who are frequently alone.

● Better mental health. It’s no secret that being around people can often boost feelings of happiness, but it also can improve your well-being and decrease the risk of depression.

● Increased brain power. Older adults with active social lives tend to have better memories and cognitive skills. Because being socially active is good for your brain health, the risk of developing dementia may decrease.

While there are so many benefits to socializing, it can be hard to take advantage of them at home. For example, some older adults may lose their desire to drive as they age, friends may have moved away and children and other family members may be geographically dispersed, making it difficult to connect with others. As health needs change, these connections can become even more difficult to maintain.

And that is often why older adults choose independent living communities. In them, it’s easy to stay socially active because of available options. These include:

● Programming and activities. From cooking classes and exercise programs to art classes and even gardening, there is usually something for everyone to enjoy. It’s as simple as attending a class in which you’re interested because you’re likely to find others who like the same things you do.

● Planned outings. Frequent trips are planned for such events such as music festivals, dining venues and local openings and festivals.

● Special interest clubs and groups. These groups or clubs can introduce you to those who have similar life experiences, enhancing beneficial social interaction.

By William Swanger, MA, APR, Fellow
Senior Vice President
Diakon Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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