We’ve looked at many factors that affect aging adults’ health on this blog, including physical fitness, emotional wellness, and intellectual wellness. We would be remiss to exclude social wellness from that list.
Don’t worry — you don’t need to be a social butterfly to improve this crucial aspect of your life. There are plenty of ways to be social while aging positively.
What is Social Wellness?
As we learn about different elements of wellness and health, we can better understand how they are all interconnected. Each type of wellness plays a vital role in positive aging and purposeful living.
Studies show that loneliness not only negatively impacts mental health, but can also lead to illness. Having an active social life, on the other hand, has been shown to bolster the immune system while reducing the risk of heart disease, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic illnesses.
Social wellness reflects the relationships you have in your life, as well as the quality and quantity of your daily interactions with other people. For example, someone with a healthy degree of social wellness is likely to see friends and family regularly and have a calendar that includes spending time with them.
In addition, they have activities that regularly bring them into contact with friendly acquaintances. These daily interactions might come from volunteering, joining an exercise club, taking a regular class, or even shopping.
Putting the Emphasis on Positive Interactions
Social wellness also means working on making all of these interactions as positive as possible. We can’t control the actions of others but we can learn how to be respectful to our spouses, family members, and close friends. (Of course, it’s also important to expect respect in return and learn how to communicate those expectations.)
Likewise, daily interactions with the people who staff your favorite supermarket or coffee shop, or maybe just those who are standing in line with you at the store, can either be friendly or tense. Doing your part to make those interactions pleasant can have a surprising impact on the rest of your day.
What’s the Best Way to “Bulk Up” Your Social Wellness?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified several core areas of social wellness that anyone can learn from, from children to seniors. The areas include:
- Staying active. Retired people sometimes struggle with this aspect, especially if they live alone and find getting to activities a strain.
- Making connections. Having meaningful relationships in your life is vital, but they can have less of a positive impact on your daily life if none of these relationships are physically local.
- Keeping relationships healthy. Whether it involves new friends or treasured family members, maintaining relationships is a key part of your emotional well-being.
- Practicing self-care. Taking care of others or being too busy can lead to self-neglect. Exercise, eating healthy meals, filling prescriptions, and even basic hygiene are often forgotten by those filling caregiver roles.
- Bonding with children. Many seniors have grandchildren or grand-nieces and nephews in their lives. Spending time with them can not only enrich your life through play and snuggles but be an important early influence on your social wellness.
Independent Living Neighborhoods Enrich Lives
If you’re living in a retirement community, your options for boosting your social wellness are endless. Here are a few tips for improving your social life after moving to an independent living neighborhood:
- Take classes that dovetail with your interests, whether it’s flower arranging or playing Pictionary.
- Attend worship services or faith-related discussions at or near your retirement community. If going to a place of worship was an important part of your faith tradition prior to moving, don’t feel you need to give up your faith tradition. These not only provide spiritual comfort to many but offer a place to meet like-minded people.
- Look for group exercise opportunities. Linking workouts you enjoy, such as yoga or hiking, with the opportunity to spend time with others, reaps both physical and emotional benefits.
- Go out on a limb. Your independent living community may offer activities or lectures that you previously considered “not your thing.” Yet going to that current events lecture or oldies dance will not only expand your world but help you meet new people.
- Make mealtime an event. Having a lunch date with friends or a regular dinnertime companion helps give you something to look forward to each day. Most retirement communities, including Episcopal Church Home, provide a range of casual, formal, and eat-in dining experiences.
Social wellness is a cornerstone of Episcopal Church Home’s independent living community. Our ever-changing list of events and regular activities help build those social connections in a dynamic, wellness-based atmosphere. Contact us today to learn more about exploring all aspects of social wellness, along with other aspects of positive aging, in a retirement community setting that’s anything but shy and “retiring.”