Community Living: It’s Healthier
Staying socially connected and feeling engaged with life becomes more important as we grow older, and not just for mental health reasons. Isolation is a serious health risk for older adults. We now know that people who don’t or can’t maintain connections with friends, family and neighborhood will experience greater numbers of chronic and life-limiting health problems. These can consist of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The benefits of belonging to a community and spending leisure time productively are too important to ignore.
Social Seniors Are Happier, Healthier Seniors
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 reveals how spending time enjoying the right leisure activities with friends and loved ones protects cognitive skills and keeps them intact longer.
Exploring new hobbies and pastimes, volunteering time with a charitable cause you believe in, embracing new challenges – all these help keep those neurons firing.
Consider these brain-boosting leisure activities:
- Cards and board games with peers and family members.
- Dancing, biking and other physical activities that keep you laughing and moving.
- Singing and playing musical instruments, especially as part of a group.
- Discussing world news and current events with peers.
A healthy brain is also key to maintaining a healthy body. Brain health is now tied to reducing severity and frequency of chronic health conditions. This lowers rates of depression and increases overall lifespan.
Why Older Adults Become Isolated
Seniors face a number of challenging issues as they try to stay connected to their community, including:
- Lack of transportation.
- Health conditions that limit their mobility.
- Friends and loved ones at a distance or moving away.
- Surviving the mounting losses of friends and family.
Each of these can be difficult to overcome for a senior who lives alone.
Benefits of Community Living for Seniors
Living where you’re surrounded by peers feels great at any age. However, for older adults, it makes a difference in quality and length of life. Seniors who choose to move to a community benefit from the items below.
Life Enrichment Programs
Senior living communities offer residents a full calendar of life enrichment activities. Active, independent residents enjoy a rich calendar of on-campus activities and community outings. These are designed to work around any of the residents’ physical or cognitive limitations. For those with mobility challenges, the opportunity to enjoy activities onsite helps them stay connected. Specialty programs for Alzheimer’s residents help promote self-esteem and success for adults coping with memory loss.
Opportunities for Volunteerism
Most community living offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities for seniors. This might mean helping with book clubs, leading current event discussions, spearheading craft programs etc. In fact, depending on the individual community and the needs of the region, the possibilities are limited only by imagination and initiative.
Healthy relationships with people who understand age-related changes help build strong interpersonal connections. Having someone nearby who can identify, empathize, and even laugh at shared struggles helps older adults stay positive.
Good nutrition is central to a healthy lifestyle. But seniors are at increased risk for poor nutrition – even malnutrition – for many reasons. Lack of transportation to the grocery store and health conditions that make meal preparation difficult are two. In a community senior living environment, meal time becomes a nourishing and social experience. Older adults enjoy well-balanced meals prepared for them and served in a dining room. This also gives them an opportunity to interact with friends.
Planned Fitness Programs
From Chair Yoga to Tai Chi and strength training, fitness is essential to the wellness programs offered in senior living communities. Residents can join both formal and informal groups of their peers to exercise on a regular basis.
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