We spend much of our lives with built-in opportunities for socializing: school, work, parent-teacher meetings, entertaining, and just being out and about in our communities. But with retirement, isolation and loneliness become valid concerns. Many people lose their sense of belonging and begin to feel detached.
Regular social interaction is proven to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease; lower blood pressure; increase self-confidence; and reduce the risk of depression. Without opportunities to connect with others, we’re missing out on significant health benefits!
Fortunately, the opportunities for socializing at any age are more plentiful than you may realize—and often help cultivate other dimensions of wellness, as well.
Here are just a few ideas for staying socially active:
- Attend regular group activities. Weekly church services and club or group meetings are great outlets for socializing and exploring interests.
- Spend time with loved ones. It may seem obvious, but regular quality time together with friends and family in whatever way possible can help boost personal wellness.
- Get online! When face-to-face socializing is not possible, connecting with others over the internet can provide the benefits of social interactions. For instance, with Skype you can “attend” a family gathering you might otherwise miss!
Connect with others and find your place in your community—you’re never too old to make a new friend!
“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
— Winston Churchill
Self-worth is often tied to one’s occupation, which can cause many people to feel depressed and a lack of purpose when it’s time to retire. Having more time to relax and enjoy leisure activities can actually feel like a loss.
But engaging in meaningful work doesn’t have to end in your later years. There are many opportunities to use your skills and passions—or gain new ones—while contributing to the community you live in.
For example, you can:
- Spend time on hobbies that benefit yourself and others such as gardening and woodworking.
- Pursue creative endeavors such as painting, sewing, music, or writing to share your talents with others.
- Get involved in your community and share your ideas. Join a resident committee or volunteer to help effect change.
- Share your knowledge with others: become a mentor, tutor a student, or read to young children.
- Try something new! Take a class, start a club, or teach yourself a new skill.
Embrace the freedom of retirement by focusing on activities that you enjoy. Then, find a way to expand their reach into your greater community. Before you know it, your days will be filled and fulfilling!
As we age, inevitable changes occur throughout the body, including the brain. In older adults, some areas of mental ability (e.g., vocabulary and analytical skills) actually improve.
Did you know that 50% of cognitive function is determined by our genetics and age, while the other 50% is under our direct control?
Here are a few things that are thought to increase the likelihood of cognitive decline:
- Lack of mental and physical activity
- Substance use and abuse
- Social isolation
- Poor nutrition and sleep
- Chronic stress
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, depression, or hypertension.
How can we maximize our mental ability and reduce the effects of aging?
Recent research proves we can increase the number of neural connections at any age by challenging our brain. More connections mean improved cognitive function and fewer symptoms caused by dementia or trauma.
This requires a multi-faceted approach. Wellness initiatives such as building a social network, continuous learning, improving skills or learning new ones, physical activity, good sleep, and nutrition are proven to have a huge impact and long-lasting effects.
Attend exhibits, plays, musicals, and poetry readings; take a workshop or course; start a new hobby; listen to TED talks; download an app for brain stimulation.
If you are learning something new, changing a pattern or routine, or exercising your mind while you exercise your body, you are focusing on your intellectual wellness. And people who develop their intellectual wellness are more likely to maintain healthy cognitive function with age.
While we’re careful about what we eat and how much we sleep, sometimes we forget how important moving correctly is. As we get more active outdoors with friends and family, let’s take a moment to reflect on the importance of ergonomics—the science of human safety and capabilities—in our everyday lives.
The ways we sleep, sit, twist, bend, reach, and stand can all have lasting effects on the health of our bodies. If not practiced properly, repetitive actions can lead to overused muscles, poor posture, and eventually even injury. As we age, our muscle and bone mass naturally decrease, which can lead to stiff joints and limited mobility.
No matter what activities you’re doing, it’s important to make sure you’re safe and comfortable at all times. The following tips can provide a helpful starting point to assess your ergonomic safeguards.
- When sitting at a computer, make sure your feet are flat on the ground, your monitor is at eye level, and your wrists are flat and straight. And be sure to sit up straight.
- If you have to stay in one spot for a prolonged amount of time, don’t just sit—get up and walk around every hour to avoid slouching or slumping.
- Any time you must stand for long periods of time, be sure to wear supportive footwear to help maintain the body’s center of gravity and alignment of the spine.
- When lifting something from the ground, bend only at the knees and hips, keep the object close to your body, and avoid twisting while lifting.
- Get regular aerobic exercise—such as running, walking, or swimming—to help the muscles of the back stay strong and promote good posture.
By staying proactive and practicing proper posture in everyday activities, you can keep your body pain-free and healthy!
As you consider getting out in warmer weather, think about what types of activities you would most like to take part in. Any type of activity that keeps you moving and intellectually engaged is great, and what if you could do something for someone else at the same time?
One way to accomplish all that is by volunteering! In fact, there are many different types of volunteering, and none of them is a wasted effort. Here are some ways to spend a few hours each week or month:
Deliver meals on wheels. Make sure other seniors get the nourishment they need by delivering food and conversation to their doors!
Assist other seniors. Perform tasks around the house, like light housekeeping and cooking, for seniors who need a little extra help. Escort them to a store or the park, so they can share in the joy of nicer weather and social engagement!
Work with animals. Call a local shelter and offer your assistance! Many shelters have opportunities to help walk dogs and feed and groom all kinds of critters. You’re in fur a good time!
Help youngsters. Help kids learn to read, mentor teens, care for premature infants, and more! There are so many children who could benefit from your experience, knowledge, and compassion. When school is back in session, many teachers love to have outside help with story times and paper grading, too! Call a nearby school and see what you can do.
Having a little extra time on our hands is never a bad thing, but using it to help others can make a real difference to people in our community. We all need a little help now and then, so let’s pay it forward whenever we can!
Sometimes we don’t realize how easy it is to make a difference in the health of our world, or how easily we can impact it. With Earth Day coming up, this is a great time to think about ways we can help ourselves, while also enjoying our environment, and helping our planet.
The world’s resources are not unlimited, and recognizing that fact by choosing alternative transportations is a good place to start. For instance, by walking, bicycling, and/or taking the bus on your next shopping or social outing—rather than driving or riding in a car—you can cut down on fossil fuel use. At the same time, by adding a little more physical movement each day—even if it’s just walking from the bus stop to the store—you can significantly improve your health over time. Small changes have big impacts!
You can always build on small actions, too—the next time you are out for a walk, bring along a paper bag and a rubber glove and pick up a piece of trash or two on each trip. It doesn’t take much to improve the world around us, and, who knows, other people might even be inspired by your actions and choose to join in!
Another seemingly small thing you can do for your body and the planet is to eat locally grown foods and avoid processed or heavily packaged foods as much as possible. Processed foods can contain ingredients that aren’t good for you. And by eating locally, you’ll further cut back on fossil fuels by limiting the need for the foods you eat to be transported across the country—or the world. Eating locally also cuts back on the resources used in manufacturing plastics and cardboards for packaging. This may mean eating fruits and vegetables only when they are in season—when they naturally taste their best!
Through a few small actions you can make big differences in the health of the planet, your immediate environment, and your own body. Start small and keep working your way up, and eventually you’ll inspire others, making you feel great in more ways than one!
Regardless of what the weather forecast says for this month, spring is on its way! This season of growth is a great time to reconnect with friends and cultivate social wellness after a long and cold winter inside.
Socialization and friendships provide significant benefits to our overall health and wellness including enhancing mental health and self-esteem, providing a sense of belonging and purpose, and holding us accountable when our schedule becomes a little less structured.
Making new friends is not always as easy as it sounds, but there are opportunities abound for nearly everyone these days—especially in today’s connected world.
- Take advantage of community events. Retirement communities provide many classes, performances, and outings at little to no cost, often with transportation included.
- Get online. If distance or transportation is an issue, connect with friends via FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, or other digital mediums.
- Volunteer your time. Giving back stimulates many different aspects of personal wellness, and helps to support great causes, as well!
- Share your interests and expertise. If you can’t find something to join, consider teaching a class or starting a club of your own, which will likely draw in those with similar interests. As you’re getting out and participating in different events, consider those who may be feeling isolated and extend an invitation! A kind gesture goes far and will likely be reciprocated in the future to further cultivate your own social wellness.
At the start of a new year, we look ahead at what’s to come and consider what we’d like to change from the year before. What do you want to accomplish this year?
No matter your age or situation, it’s never too late to make a change—and there are many simple things we can all do to enhance our personal wellness and feel good today and every day!
While working toward making a change, it can often be valuable to think of our goal as a habit we wish to permanently incorporate into our lifestyle, rather than something with a specific end mark.
Here are a few ideas to consider incorporating into your daily routine:
- Drink a full glass of water first thing each morning. Get hydrated and get a fresh start.
- Set a mantra or plan for each day. Begin your day with a goal in mind, no matter how small or simple it may be.
- Move as much as you can. Set a timer to move around or at least change position every 30 to 60 minutes each day.
- Do a good deed for someone else. When someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, pay it forward. A selfless act feels good to giver and recipient, and can help inspire kindness in others, as well!
Cultivating a general sense of wellness can help us feel our best and have more energy to spend on what makes us happy. Focusing on ourselves throughout the year means that we can approach each new milestone with confidence.
The end of the year is a time of togetherness and reflection. As we spend time with family and friends, we often think back on what the year has brought us, and what we have to look forward to in the new year.
But with age, the holidays can sometimes trigger feelings of sadness and anger as we think about those no longer with us or health conditions that keep us from celebrating the same way we did in years past.
No matter your situation, there are ways for everyone to celebrate the season and get in the holiday spirit:
- Share stories and look through old photo albums. Telling younger generations about your past experiences can help bring families closer together and honor those who have passed.
- Be reasonable with your schedule. Don’t agree to attend too much if you think it will tire you. Conversely, if you’re feeling like you don’t have much planned for the holidays, consider volunteering to give back and surround yourself with like-minded people.
- Stick to your routines. With a lot going on, it’s easy to slip up on certain habits, but following your regular exercise program and eating healthfully (in moderation!) can help you continue to feel your best.
Keep in mind that the best way to spend the holidays is doing what feels right for you. Enjoy the season!
Giving back and expressing gratitude are synonymous with this time of year—it’s only natural to look back on all we’ve been thankful for over the past several months as we look forward to the start of a new year. As we gather together over the holidays, we can share these feelings with loved ones and give thanks to each other.
Showing gratitude can be as simple as giving someone a compliment, sharing a meal with a loved one, or trying to see the positives in a bad situation. More formal ways to give back might include volunteering at a local food bank, becoming a mentor, making a charitable donation, or teaching a class.
Ingraining these habits in our everyday lives helps make these feelings more prominent and can encourage others to follow our lead. In addition to helping others feel a sense of purpose and appreciated, giving to others benefits the giver, as well.
It can help:
- Increase self-esteem
- Stimulate the release of endorphins similar to the “high” that comes from exercise
- Gain a new perspective and take your mind off of everyday concerns
- Grow as a person and develop new skills and knowledge
This month, consider the ways in which you can show your appreciation for those who make your life a little brighter each day. Spread kindness, express your feelings, and enhance self-worth for yourself and others!