Socializing Is Important To Avoid Or Reduce Aging Diseases

If you did not have an active social life in the early parts of your life, chances are that you will become even more socially withdrawn as you get older, and probably more inclined than ever to stay home alone.

But, did you know an active social life can help you to prevent some aging diseases?

Socializing ranks right up there with diet and exercise on the “aging” ladder of importance. Sometimes, when an individual retires or a spouse dies, friends withdraw simply because the person doesn’t fit in anymore with their lifestyles.

Rather than keeping busy and finding other friends or methods of socializing, seniors often develop depression which can lead to other diseases such as alcoholism, heart disease and even cancer.

It’s been proven that individuals who enjoy an active social life can extend their lives by years. There are an abundance of benefits for socializing other than life extension-stress reduction, a feeling of importance and high self esteem are just a few of the benefits.  Keeping active also reduces the risk of mental diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Sometimes seniors must make the effort to become involved rather than waiting for someone to come to them. Getting involved in the community or other organizations can mean the difference in isolation and depression or enjoying a healthy mix of friendships and outside activities.

Being around people who have the same interests help those age 55+ enjoy life even more. Laughing and creating new memories are the best medicines to keep from thinking and focusing on the negatives in life. Joining an activity that’s new or something challenging is especially helpful.

Most of us rely on human contact for our very survival, unlike other species in the animal kingdom. From the time we’re born and depend on our mother and father to feed and take care of us until the later years, when we still need others. 

It’s not surprising that as we age, socializing with others becomes more important than ever. We need contact with others who either share our interests and opinions or have interests and opinions that are entirely new to us.

Remember that when you socialize with others in your age group, you are also helping others as much as you are helping yourself, so feel free to become a regular ‘social butterfly’ to assist in staying healthy, connected and happy in the “55 and better” years!

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These Things I Wish for You

If you have read the following essay before, you may attribute it to Paul Harvey.  However, Mr. Harvey did not write it.  The true author is Lee Pitts, who had it published in the 2000 “Chicken Soup For The Golden Soul” collection.

Paul Harvey used this particular essay (crediting Pitts) during a September 6, 1997 broadcast. Listeners loved it and it has since become a classic and been passed between grandparent to grandchild, parent to child, friend to friend.

 

THESE THINGS I WISH FOR YOU

“We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them worse. For my grandchildren, I’d like better. I’d really like them to know about hand me down clothes and homemade ice cream and leftover meat loaf sandwiches. I really would. I hope you learn humility by being humiliated, and that you learn honesty by being cheated. I hope you learn to make your own bed and mow the lawn and wash the car. And I really hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen. It will be good if at least one time you can see puppies born and your old dog put to sleep.

I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in, I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother. And it’s all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he wants to crawl under the covers with you because he’s scared, I hope you let him. I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you live in a town where you can do it safely.

On rainy days when you have to catch a ride, I hope you don’t ask your driver to drop you two blocks away so you won’t be seen riding with someone as uncool as your Mom. If you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to make one instead of buying one. I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books. When you learn to use computers, I hope you also learn to add and subtract in your head.

I hope you get teased by your friends when you have your first crush on a girl, and when you talk back to your mother that you learn what ivory soap tastes like. May you skin your knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on a stove, and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole. I don’t care if you try a beer once, but I hope you don’t like it. And if a friend offers you dope or a joint, I hope you realize he is not your friend. I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with your Grandpa and go fishing with your Uncle.

May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy during the holidays. I hope your mother punishes you when you throw a baseball through your neighbor’s window and that she hugs you and kisses you at Christmas time when you give her a plaster mold of your hand. These things I wish for you – tough times and disappointment, hard work and happiness. To me, it’s the only way to appreciate life.”

Memory and Social Interaction

If you can’t remember where you put your keys….find them and then go meet friends for dinner!

Strong social ties, through friends and community groups, can preserve our brain health as we age while social isolation is an important risk factor for cognitive decline in those age 50 and over.

Socializing with people is a form of exercise that requires attention, effort and alertness, all of which are important aspects of memory. Of course, socializing is also an important feature of preventing or reducing depression.

Information is stored in different parts of memory. Information stored in short-term memory may include the name of a person you met today while information stored in your remote or long-term memory includes things stored years ago, such as memories of childhood.

When you’re in your 20s, you begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make less of the chemicals your brain cells need to work. The older you are, the more these changes can affect your memory.A memory problem is serious when it affects your daily living. If you sometimes forget names, you’re probably okay. But you may have a more serious problem if you have trouble remembering how to do things you’ve done many times before, getting to a place you’ve been to often, or doing things that requires steps. Certain medications, stress-related activities, injuries and other factors may also cause memory loss.

Aging may affect memory by  not only changing the way the brain stores information and by making it harder to recall stored information.

Another difference between normal memory problems and dementia (a more serious type of memory loss) is that normal memory loss doesn’t get much worse over time. Dementia may get much worse over several months to several years.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health used data gathered from six years of data from the Health and Retirement Study, a large, nationally representative population of American adults ages 50 and older. Participants took memory tests at two-year intervals during the study period. Testers read a list of 10 common nouns to survey respondents, who were then asked to recall as many words as possible immediately and again after a five-minute delay. The researchers also measured social integration and engagement in activities with others.

The results showed that individuals who in their 50s and 60s who engage in a lot of social activity also had the slowest rate of memory decline. In fact, compared to those who were the least socially active, study subjects who had the highest social integration scores had less than half the rate of memory loss.

“The working hypothesis is that social engagement is what makes you mentally engaged,” said Lisa F. Berkman, the study’s senior author and director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. “You can’t sit and withdraw if you’re constantly talking and engaging with others. It’s not just completing a crossword puzzle, it’s living your life.”

One of the most difficult challenges for mature adults is maintaining or finding relationships with people from their generation who share their interests, experiences and hobbies.  Whether you are retired or not, there are many things you can do to prevent  loneliness and make connections with others.  It can be as easy as joining a group with interests that match your own.  This social interaction is essential to healthy brain health.

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” –  James Matthew Barrie

Caregiving And The Importance Of A Social Network

When a person takes on the responsibility of taking care of an ill family member, it is a job that can very easily consume them.  The most common caregivers are ones that take care of a sick parent or spouse.  

Caregiving can be stressful and may contribute to serious depression. A substantial body of research shows that family members who provide care to individuals with chronic or disabling conditions are themselves at risk. Emotional, mental, and physical health problems arise from complex caregiving situations and the strains of caring for an ill relative.

The child or spouse is immersed in their family member’s illness and they can easily feel a sense of isolation.  Caregiver burn-out is common and it is important to avoid this sense of aloneness.  

Socializing with others can have a positive effect on caregiver stress. Arrangements can be made for the caregiver to take a break from caregiving to attend socializing events, possibly be enlisting the help of other family members, friends or a daycare center.  Socializing is vital to relieve stress and possible caregiver depression.

The positive effects of socializing include:

Having social activities to look forward to give a caregiver something to see in the future beyond the day to day chores.

Spending time with people helps ward off loneliness and knowing one is not all alone helps with stress.

Having people who enjoy your company and consider you a friend, reinforces your feeling of being a good person to spend time with.     

Attending a movie, theater production, book club or other activity, takes a caregiver’s mind off of responsibilities and focuses on another interest they may have.

Dining with a group of people who are happy and enjoying fun conversation, proves that laughter can be the best medicine!   

Engaging with others can stimulate thoughts and clear one’s mind.

Meeting others who are also caregivers or who have been caregivers in the past, who can offer support and advice.

Caretaking is not something that has to be taken on solely alone. Just because an individual is taking care of an ill parent or spouse does not mean that interaction with others has to stop.  This is the time that caregivers need a social network and connections more than ever.