Stay Healthy, Stay Social

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As we age and retire, it is often not as easy to socialize as frequently or in the same capacity that we once did in our youth. Staying social as a senior, can help you stay sharp, healthy, and maybe even ward off dementia. Research has shown that social interaction offers older adults many benefits. Staying socially active and maintaining interpersonal relationships can help you maintain good physical and emotional health and cognitive function.

A study conducted by the Universities of California and Chicago surveyed 141 elderly people about their levels of social isolation. Researchers examined gene expression in leukocytes — cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against bacteria and viruses — and analyzed how these genes corresponded to participants self-reported isolation. They found that in 26% of participants who identified themselves as being socially isolated, the genes that cause inflammation were more active, while genes that fight viral infections were depressed.

As well as posing problems for the immune system, loneliness has been shown to shorten life span. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, analyzed data from 70 studies and over 3 million participants to find a 26% increased chance of death in people who reported loneliness, and 32% for people living alone. The research also found that social isolation and feelings of loneliness can manifest in a physical way, becoming as detrimental to health as physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet.

 Ways for Seniors to Stay Social

 

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