Keys to Embracing Aging
A new lesson series “Keys to Embracing Aging” was recently introduced to Family and Consumer Sciences Agents here at K-State Research and Extension. The series introduces 12 healthy behavior practices that encourage optimal aging throughout the life span. These 12 keys aim to help people grow old gracefully, successfully, and with increased longevity, based on findings from research conducted with centenarians (Americans 100 years old and older).
One of the keys, social activity, is important because people who are socially engaged are often healthier, happier, less depressed and demonstrate enhanced brain vitality.
Social activity is good for people regardless of who you are, how old you are, where you live or what you do. Being socially engaged with friends, family, and various activities throughout the lifespan has many positive benefits:
- Improved social skills
- Positive attitude
- Enhanced self-esteem
- Connection to peers, groups and the community
- Reduced risk of illnesses and diseases including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
- Reduced risk for mental health disorders, such as depression
- Better brain health
- Overall happier and healthier lifestyle
- May help to increase the quality and length of life
Finding or creating connections is a key to social activity. Social connectivity includes relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and other people with whom you interact as you carry out daily activities such as your bankers, store clerks, and health-care providers. These may be people you consistently see or look forward to seeing, people with whom you have something in common, or people you trust. Social connectivity also includes various activities in the community or at home. The types of activities that engage you socially are endless, but it is important to seek or create a meaningful activity. By engaging with people and participating in activities you enjoy, social activity can be easy, fun, and fulfilling. Examples of social activities include:
- joining a community center, club, or committee
- organizing or attending get-togethers with friends, family, or neighbors
- going to a theater, movie, sporting event, or festival
- eating out
- taking classes
Stay connected through technology
Being social doesn’t always mean you have to leave the house. Today it is easier than ever to stay connected through technology. Phone calls, emails, the Internet, typing letters, and even text or video messaging are all common avenues of immediate and easy-to-use communication. Today, even online medical services — including tele-med, tele-nursing, and tele-therapy — allow health-care professionals to check in on you at home. They may remind you of health-care needs or walk you through procedures you can safely attend to at home. Today’s technology helps people daily, by providing instant information, services and even fun. The Internet is available to multi-generations and provides endless information and opportunities that can stimulate the brain and create experiences for social activity.
Quality social interaction
Quality relationships that develop with close family, friends, and significant others help provide ongoing joy, excitement, support, love, and purpose. Meaningful relationships require hard work, dedication and a conscious effort. They are often characterized by strong lines of communication, honesty, respect, patience, thoughtfulness, compromise, empathy, laughter and respectful confrontation. Maintaining a meaningful relationship contributes to the strength of the relationship and plays an important role in the benefits of social activity. While acquaintances and friendships of all kinds are important, meaningful relationships can provide an increased sense of satisfaction and well-being.
There isn’t a special formula that spells out meaningful social activity. You have to seek and create opportunities and relationships that are fulfilling and meaningful to you, given your personality and place in the world.
While being socially active is critical to health and well-being, everyone has limits on how much time can be spent socially engaged. It is acceptable and healthy to enjoy alone time because these opportunities help you to reflect on life’s meaning. Engaging in meaningful social activity and establishing healthy lifestyle behaviors throughout your life will influence optimal aging.