February is American Heart Month—a time to advocate for cardiovascular health and raise awareness about heart disease.
We all understand the importance of keeping our hearts physically healthy, but there’s another side of heart health that doesn’t always get enough attention: emotional wellness. Emotional wellness is closely linked to social connection, whether it’s through friendships, intimate relationships, or being part of a community—and is especially important for seniors. Seniors are more likely to live alone, have limited mobility, and experience the loss of family or friends, all of which put them at risk of social isolation.
Helping your older loved one to feel socially connected can benefit them in many ways:
The Physical Benefits of Social Connection
The CDC reports that compared to seniors with strong relationships, those who are socially isolated are 50% more likely to develop dementia, 29% more likely to develop heart disease, and 32% more likely to suffer a stroke. Social connectedness is associated with stronger immune systems, better healing after surgery, and increased longevity.
The physical benefits of social connection are also related to daily habits. Isolation and loneliness in older adults have been associated with unhealthy behaviors like physical inactivity and smoking, whereas seniors who feel more plugged into their communities are more likely to sustain healthy habits like exercise and self-care, improving their quality of life.
The Mental Health Impacts of Social Connection
Social connectedness doesn’t just have physical health benefits—it impacts seniors’ mental health, as well. Connection helps ward off feelings of isolation and depression, and decreases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It also can help improve cognitive function and memory recall, helping older adults stay sharp in later life. A Penn State study found that when adults between the ages of 70 and 90 had positive social interactions, they experienced improved cognitive performance both immediately afterward and for the next two days.
The events that come along with being in community—like playing cards or bingo, or meeting with a knitting or book club—contribute to better moods and a greater sense of well-being.
Helping An Older Loved One Establish and Maintain Relationships
Seniors At Home offers many programs to help older adults feel socially connected. Widow/Widower Café on the Peninsula hosts monthly events for seniors who have lost a partner or spouse; Skyview Zoom meets five days a week to offer socialization for people with memory impairment; and Café by the Bay offers Holocaust survivors gatherings where they can gain strength and support from one another. Seniors At Home caregivers can also be a source of companionship, in addition to offering assistance with daily needs.
If you or someone you know is struggling, Seniors At Home is here to help. Reach out to us at 415-449-3700 or contact us online. We’re here to provide support and community for you and your older loved one. Remember, we’re all in this together.