The Friendship Prescription

We all know the usual anecdotes for aging gracefully: a healthy diet, physical activity, restful sleep, and keeping the mind active. However, there is another key component in staying healthy as we age.

Socialization. Social interaction is imperative to our emotional well-being and has been proven to have an effect on our physical health as well. Humans are hardwired for human contact with a deep need to connect with others. While many people do not mind “being alone,” feeling lonely is entirely different. Loneliness is feeling a lack of companionship and support, being socially isolated, which can oftentimes lead to depression.  According to AARP, loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health. In a recent survey, those who rated their health as “excellent” were over half as likely to be lonely than those who rated their health as “poor” (25% vs. 55%). Research proves that social interaction boosts eight particular areas of our health.

Blood Pressure – A University of Chicago study shows that loneliness is linked to increased blood pressure. Lonely individuals are less likely to approach stressful situations with healthy coping skills, therefore, leading to hypertension.

Depression – Depression affects nearly six million people over 65, and while it may not be unusual for older adults, it is not a normal part of aging. Social interaction can assist seniors adjust to loss or change, help ward off depression, or prevent current symptoms from worsening.

Immune System – A study by UCLA researchers illustrates a direct link between lonely individuals and a decrease in the efficiency of our immune system. Steve Cole, a UCLA professor, says, “What this study shows is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most basic internal processes — the activity of our genes.”

Pain – Chronic pain can have a negative impact on the quality of life. It can lead to social isolation, which can lead to depression. Maintaining a social connection can be beneficial in coping with and decreasing the impact of chronic pain.

Nutrition – Another sad and frightening effect of social isolation is the risk of malnutrition. Many seniors say that it is too much trouble to prepare a nutritious meal for one and often skip meals or snack on junk food instead. Scientists have found a direct and clear correlation between food intake and social interaction.

Brain Health – Keep your mental health moving! Numerous studies confirm that an active social life slows memory loss and cognitive impairment.

Physical Activity – As the number one ingredient for healthy aging, it is certainly easier to stay motivated and moving with a group of people. For people of any age it can definitely get boring going for walks alone every day, that’s why the “buddy system” is better!

Relationships – Studies suggest that having a wide net of social interactions helps with our primary relationship. People who socialize with a good number of people don’t look to their spouse or partner to fulfill every emotional need. Research shows seniors with good social interaction have better physical, emotional, and intellectual health.

Just because you don’t drive anymore or have difficulty getting around doesn’t mean you have to spend your days alone. Perhaps you enjoy gardening, reading, movies, playing cards, or dining out? Colorado Springs’ own Summit Glen Retirement Community keeps its residents social and active. Our in-house chef prepares and serves three delicious and nutritious meals per day in our beautiful dining room. Plus, with free on-site transportation you will always have a ride to doctor appointments, shopping, group outings, and events.

We know that many older adults in Colorado Springs live on a fixed income, and that’s why Summit Glen Retirement Community operates on a month-to-month rental basis with no hidden costs, expenses, or “add-ons.” This means that meals, utilities, transportation, and rent are always included in the flat monthly fee. You can breathe easy knowing your budget will be balanced and easy to manage.