Happy healthy senior running in the sun

Seniors remain active, healthy through the power of connection

By Wayne Schwartz

Older Americans Month is observed to recognize and inspire the seniors around us. As chosen by the Administration for Community Living, this year’s theme is “Powered by Connection,” which explores the health benefits of meaningful relationships and social connections.

It’s no secret that quality time with our friends leaves us feeling joyful, refreshed and, oftentimes, at ease. However, we sometimes fail to consider the benefits that socialization has on our mental, physical and emotional health. In fact, social connections have more of an impact on us than we may think. The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine reports that social connection can impact diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight management and depression.

At Gulf Coast Village, for example, socialization is made easy for seniors due to having neighbors and a full activities calendar provided by the life enrichment department. Each day, residents have opportunities to socialize, make new friends and engage in fun activities. For seniors aging in place, harnessing the power of connection and getting their daily dose of socialization requires extra effort, but is achievable.

Traditional activities with a twist

A phenomenon popularized by Millennials in the 2010s, social fitness is a concept in which individuals participate in physical activities with friends to increase their levels of socialization. Social fitness is a great mentality for older adults to adopt due to the importance of exercise and socialization as we age.

Rather than partaking in exercises on your own, put a spin on it by involving other people. For instance, swimming is a low-impact activity that seniors can do independently, but it’s more fun with a few friends.

Embrace your current connections

To harness the power of connection, consider organizing a fitness activity with friends, such as walking at a local park or trying a yoga or tai chi class for the first time. Regular walks can reduce the risk or severity of diabetes, cognitive decline and cardiovascular diseases while improving mental health, sleep and overall quality of life.

Tai chi, a gentle form of exercise, is great for older adults – including those with chronic health conditions – and offers improved balance, core strength and overall health, both physically and mentally. It also helps reduce back pain and improve cognitive and immune function.

Try something new

For seniors adjusting to a recent move into senior living, take a step out of your comfort zone by attending an event or activity at your senior living community. Whether you choose to accompany neighbors on a group grocery shopping trip or to sit in the audience of a community play, take a few hours out of the day to try something new and connect with others. In turn, you may make a new friend and can even discover a new favorite activity.

During their first few weeks in the community, Gulf Coast Village encourages new residents to attend events so they can meet new people and become more engaged with their new home. Oftentimes, residents will meet a group of individuals they have a connection with, and they will continue to participate in activities together in the months and years ahead. Taking the extra step toward socialization in a new environment can be intimidating, but it results in lifelong friendships and enjoyable experiences.

The power of connection is like no other. Next time you plan a dip in the pool, a stroll along a walking trail or following a YouTube yoga tutorial, consider inviting friends to join you. Not only will you be helping yourself, but you will also provide your friends with an array of health benefits.

About the Author

Wayne Schwartz is the life enrichment director at Gulf Coast Village, a premier Life Plan Community in Cape Coral. For more information, please call 239-510-8712.