How Social Interaction Impacts Our Health
Society keeps giving us messages that when we get older, we’re finished. We’re not finished. Every day is a new start.
– Billie Jean King, Atria Senior Living’s Well-Being Coach
As we age, our quality of life is constantly called into question by society. In truth, for those aged 65 years or older, an individual’s health and quality of life can become more vulnerable. The process of transitioning into retirement begins, the body starts limiting the amount and type of physical activity it can perform and a person is often faced with changes in their household, such as the loss of a spouse or significant other.
Inevitably, we need some level of assistance or personal care. Our decision to remain socially connected or let these life events isolate us has an enormous impact on our health and quality of life.
Quality of life is defined as “the degree of health, enjoyment and satisfaction we experience in our everyday life.” Statistically, aging adults who allow themselves to become isolated experience considerably poorer health and less life satisfaction and enjoyment than aging adults who remain socially engaged.
Relationships are everything!
During the same April interview quoted at the start of this blog, Billie Jean King discusses her top 10 action steps for healthy and successful aging to help combat the risk of poor health and isolation:
It should come as no surprise that the very first action step focuses on relationships. Being socially engaged is becoming more and more documented for having a significant impact on one’s health and quality of life. This becomes even more important as we age and adjust to life’s challenges.
In fact, a recent study conducted by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging (TILDA) concluded that aging adults who were tagged as “most isolated” or “moderately isolated” made up the largest percentage of people who reported poor health.
Their study produced the graph below, which displays both males and females – aged 50 to 75 years and older – who reported poor health during the TILDA analysis. As you see, regardless of the age group, the aging adults considered isolated reported poorer health more often than those considered to be socially integrated. Furthermore, isolated females 75 years and older showed the most significant difference in poor health when compared to socially active females in the same age range.
Beyond the Statistics
Now that we’ve reviewed some statistics and evidence on the importance of social engagement, let’s keep it simple. Ask yourself, “Would I rather be socially engaged or isolated?” In reality – regardless of our age – we all feel better and more enthusiastic about ourselves when we’re interacting with others.
Discovering the importance of relationships and social interaction can help us plan for a better quality of life as the years go by. Remember, the road to successful aging begins with knowing the first step: Relationships are everything!