The Importance of Maintaining a Strong Social Network in Aged Care

The Importance of Maintaining a Strong Social Network in Aged Care

Social interaction is the cornerstone of a human being’s lived experience. Most of us have families, we work in neighbourhoods, and we view ourselves as citizens of both our culture and our country. As soon as we are born, we start developing relationships with other people. Therefore, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that our interactions with other people continue to be important throughout later years of our lives. Numerous health studies have shown that maintaining a social network is important for improving quality of life as we age. But exactly what does that mean?  

The comfort of belonging

People of a senior age who have strong social connections have a greater sense of belonging, which is associated with improved physical, mental, and emotional health. People who are secure in their place in the world are less prone to question their faith and the things they believe in, which contributes to better spiritual health.

There is a connection between the sense of belonging that elders have and the health that they believe they have. Regardless of the actual condition of their health, senior citizens who reported having a strong or relatively strong feeling of community had a better perception of their own health than those who had a weaker sense of community.

Benefits to physical health

Benefits to physical health

It appears that keeping in touch with friends and family is as vital to one’s physical health as eating a diet rich in vegetables and getting enough of exercise. One study found that the absence of close friendships was associated with increased risk of death from heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Fortuitously, it has been shown that having lots of friends and family around can improve your health in a variety of positive ways, including making you live longer and giving you a stronger immune system.

According to the findings of this study, higher levels of social interaction were associated with lower rates of mortality. The fact that seniors who have more robust social lives have a greater chance of living longer is evidence that social involvement is an essential component of seniors’ overall health.

Better mental health

Studies have found a link between social connectedness and wellness, with social connectedness positively correlated with mental health. A study conducted by AARP in the United States found loneliness was most prevalent among middle-aged and older persons who had been diagnosed with mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, or another mood disorder. After follow-up testing four years later, older persons who reported feelings of social isolation or loneliness had worse cognitive function.

Having strong social ties may also shield older people from developing depression in the future and even assist them avoid relapsing into it. Reciprocal relationships are vital for an older person’s feeling of self-worth and as an incentive for ongoing social involvement, according to a World Health Organization report. According to the CDC, social connection is another element that may help prevent suicide and has an impact on people of all ages, even seniors.

Being a part of a community may be beneficial to a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Participating in one’s community helps to cultivate feelings of social connectivity as well as a sense of belonging in a person. Additionally, it has the potential to increase one’s sense of meaning and purpose in day-to-day life.

How to connect

How to connect

There are many ways our senior citizens can maintain their contact with communities. In fact, with the advent of the internet if anything it has become easier and in some instances may not even require leaving one’s home, which is a tremendous advantage for those with mobility problems. Examples like online gaming, discussion groups and even social media afford great opportunities to reconnect with old friends and make valuable new acquaintances.

Outside of the digital world, the possibilities for social connection are endless. Consider some of these actions for starters-

  • Volunteering: Hospital auxiliaries, charity op-shops and the like present the opportunity to not just work as part of a team but also interact with the public in a meaningful way.
  • Local sport or hobby clubs: The activities on offer can range from physical (sporting clubs such as golf, lawn bowls, fishing etc) to the more cerebral (book clubs, board games like chess or Mah Jong) but whichever option you get the best of what community involvement has to offer, meeting with like minded people, keeping your mind and body sharp and the chance to build relationships.
  • Music: Play an instrument? Maybe there’s a municipal band looking for new players. Better still, find other musicians and start your own! You might even be tempted to pass on your knowledge to the next generation of musicians. Conversely, it’s never too late to start learning if you’ve never tried. The challenge of finding your way around a piano or guitar can be an enjoyable one and is a great way to preserve your cognitive ability.
Stay connected with ConnectAbility

Stay connected with ConnectAbility

It’s clear that maintaining a strong social connection is connected to positive outcomes for those in aged care. ConnectAbility understands this and can work with you to bring enjoyment and it’s associated benefits to your later years. In-home aged care support is something that ConnectAbility, a local non-profit with over 25 years of experience, offers to residents of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, and Port Stephens. As an approved provider, we offer services through the Home Care Package Program (HCP) and Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), as well as private funded services where necessary. To find out how we can help you, email us at contact@connectabilityaus.org.au

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