“Friendships”- The Secret Sauce to a Happy, Healthy Retirement!

Here is some attention grabbing news……emerging research indicates that social engagement plays a significant role in overall well being, self-esteem, and even longevity!

More specifically, research further shows that active engagement with other people actually improves your health. It also lowers the risk of high blood pressure, depression, cardiovascular disease and dementia.

And finally, the conclusion of all of this research is that people who are socially active are 50% less likely to die prematurely! Interesting though, researchers are nor sure why this is true. Why are having friends associated with better health?

It may be because social activity often begets physical activity. And physical activity has many positive effects on your health. In addition, socialization is a mood lifter, and happiness is thought to be linked to good health.

Thus, socialization is a requirement for a Lemonade Retirement, not an option. And this is because, sadly, the opposite is also true. Isolation contributes to poor health in the same way as smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. Also a lack of socialization is connected to decreasing cognitive function, declining physical function and decreased immune function.

I don’t doubt that ALL of this is true, after all it is backed up by a substantial amount of recent research. But isn’t it very surprising that friendships and socialization can have such an effect on the physical functioning of our bodies and our longevity?

So what’s the problem? This should be easy. Countless millions of us are already there. We can just “check this box” and move on. But unfortunately there are also millions of Baby Boomers who live isolated or somewhat isolated lives.

For these seniors, their friendships and socialization have decreased significantly in their later years. This happens for many reasons. It can be due to drifting apart, relocation, health issues, death, or simply an inability to get out of the house.

For this group, making the lifestyle changes necessary to add socialization back into their lives may be difficult. Social skills have gotten rusty. And introverts may find it particularly difficult to make these changes. Some introverts find it easier to use social media and connect online. And this is acceptable, I read. However, combining socializing with a physical or mental activity has far more health benefits, particularly when done person to person.

For those interested in taking action to increase their friendships and socialization, following are ideas for consideration:

  1. Volunteering.
  2. Faith-based activities.
  3. A part-time job for 8-16 hours per week.
  4. Investigate the local senior center.
  5. Join a fitness center and commit to using it two to three times a week.
  6. Take senior oriented continuing education courses at a nearby high school or college.
  7. Reconnect with former classmates and other former friends.
  8. Accept all invitations.
  9. Invite a neighbor for lunch or just coffee.
  10. Start or join a book club in your neighborhood.
Author Mike Duvall reconnecting with one of his best high school friends, Steve Earle.

 

Since this is so important to our health and longevity, hopefully those needing to add socialization to their lives will find at least one appealing option on the list above. If this applies to you, get serious and get started. And remember, if you have your health, you have everything!