July 17, 2018
By Emma Berkley
Whether we’re sipping wine on a Friday evening, visiting a new art exhibit or enjoying a beautiful picnic with friends, social wellness and nurturing ourselves and our relationships with other people plays an integral role in overall health and life.
July is Social Wellness Month, a time to recognize the ways older adults can benefit from connecting with other people. Research has shown that people with strong social networks may live longer, have stronger immune systems, respond better to stressful situations, and have better heart and endocrine function.
What steps can older adults take this month to begin increasing their social wellness?
Receive — and Give — Social Support
Social wellness does not occur in a vacuum; it is the product of strong relationships. By building relationships with family members, along with friends old and new, you create a support system you can turn to in times of need. To create strong relationships, be honest and open with others, and be willing to give and accept assistance.
Having strong social relationships can significantly improve quality of life for older adults, and it can take a number of different forms. Informational support refers to offering knowledge that can assist someone else. Support groups, for example, can serve as a form of informational support.
Instrumental support refers to practical forms of help, such as financial assistance or pitching in with household chores. Perhaps most importantly, emotional support involves the many types of actions people can take to make someone else feel that they are loved and valued.
Leave Your Comfort Zone
If you would like to expand your social circle, you may need to get out of your comfort zone to do so. To meet new people, consider joining a book group, attending fitness classes, or going on some group day trips. If you have a hobby—whether it’s photography, cooking or boating—seek out others who share your interests.
Volunteering serves as another great way to meet like-minded individuals. By volunteering with a school, hospital or nonprofit organization, you will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of events, and you are sure to make new friends.
Focus on Quality
You can maintain—and even improve—your social wellness by building strong relationships with just a few people. Not everyone wishes to build large networks of acquaintances, and quantity of friends plays a minor role in feeling connected. To strengthen your connections with dear ones, stay in touch by calling, writing, texting or visiting.
By getting out of your comfort zone to meet new people, giving and receiving support, and nurturing close relationships, you can maintain healthy connections and continue to improve your social wellness.
CREDIT—Emma Berkley is Life Enrichment Director at AlmaVia of San Rafael, a pet-friendly senior living community offering assisted living and memory care located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Elder Care Alliance is the support organization for AlmaVia of San Rafael and four other senior living communities.