Social interactions have an impact on a person’s health. With mounting evidence about the dangers loneliness poses to health, making sure to have regular social interactions is growing in importance. For many people this includes seeing coworkers throughout the day, visiting with friends in the evening, or spending time with family. For older adults, social isolation is an increasing threat, one that is potentially hazardous to health. According to the AARP, prolonged social isolation can have the same impact on health risks as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Social wellness is an important aspect of a person’s overall wellness. The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence. This is done by addressing wellness in all its forms, including social wellness. Social wellness is being part of a community and interacting with others. Other dimensions of wellness include physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional.
“We see it happen all the time,” said Dawn Determan, Director of Community Wellness at Meridian Village, a Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) Life Plan Community in Glen Carbon, Illinois. “A new resident will move in and their health improves. Thanks in part to the opportunities they have for socialization.”
As we age, our social networks change, often shrinking, and opportunities to meet new people and forge new connections are sometimes harder to find. This is where senior living communities make a notable difference for older adults. According to a recent study by the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, 69 percent of older adults who moved to a Life Plan Community reported that this move improved their social wellness.
Life Plan Communities offer robust activity calendars for all residents, providing opportunities for them to be as engaged as they want to be. These activities vary from daytrips, to regular exercise classes, to art classes and educational lectures, and much more.
“We know choice is important to our residents,” explained Determan. “We offer a wide selection of events and activities so everyone can find something that interests them. It’s really fun to see new residents get involved and try new things that maybe they didn’t have access to before.”
Not only are Life Plan Community residents engaged in new activities, they interact with friends more often and have a greater sense of community belonging.
“It doesn’t require a planned event to increase social interaction,” added Determan. “Just being in a community, around other people, helps older adults be less isolated.”