Smiling seniors couple on the walk

How to Stay Social as a Senior

Social isolation can pose a serious threat to the mental and physical health of older adults. In fact, research shows limited individual or societal contact can directly impact mortality and has been linked to chronic conditions such as depression, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. With more than 13 million seniors living alone, maintaining relationships with friends and family members is crucial. Here are some tips to stay engaged as a senior:

  • Embrace Ride-Sharing: Transportation can become a point of contention for older adults as some may be unable to safely operate a vehicle. To avoid burdening others, they may opt-out of social activities. With ride-sharing, seniors have easy access to transportation, which helps them maintain a daily routine.
  • Go Back to School: It’s never too late to acquire a new skill. Many universities and colleges offer lifelong learning classes at a reduced rate for seniors seeking educational opportunities. These classes can be a great way to meet new people and stay sharp mentally.
  • Join Social Media: The internet has made it easier than ever to stay connected. About 67% of adults ages 65 and older are active online. Regardless of location, social media allows users to interact with like-minded people from the same demographic. In some cases, online friendships are just as strong and beneficial as their offline counterparts.
  • Play in a Sports League: There are many recreational leagues that cater to older adults. By joining a team, seniors stay more physically active, confident and social. Also, those who engage in extracurricular activities, are more likely to have reduced blood pressure, a lower body mass index (BMI) and better physical function.
  • Reconnect with Family: The most vital socialization starts at home. Older adults can reinforce their familial presence by finding common ground and sharing valuable knowledge and insight. In general, reconnecting with family has a positive impact on everyone involved.
  • Rejoin the Workforce: Retirees may find themselves missing the structure of a full-time job. Therefore, many seek out freelance or part-time employment. Perks include increased productivity and access to company wellness programs, which lead to long-term benefits like lower health care costs.
  • Start Traveling: Whether in a group or alone, visiting different locations can be fun and exciting. Meeting people and embracing new cultures offers a one-of-a-kind experience and increases the potential to create more relationships.
  • Volunteer: Community-based volunteer efforts encourage individuals to step outside their comfort zones and are often a collaboration among people from various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. It teaches humility, grace and can provide a renewed sense of purpose.

Additional Opportunities
Looking for even more ways to get active? Individuals with Medicare Advantage plans through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan can participate in the Silver Sneakers program. It’s an initiative that supports seniors by providing access to more than 14,000 fitness centers. Members can attend special classes where they learn healthier habits, while interacting with peers.

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About the author: Dr. Raymond Hobbs is a physician consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Photo credit: kate_sept2004

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