If you're like most adult children of aging parents, you want to do all you can to help your loved ones stay healthy and comfortable as they age. While there are many things to consider when it comes to senior care, one important factor is social living. Recent studies have shown a clear link between cognitive function and social living – so what does that mean for your loved ones? Keep reading to find out!
The benefits of social living on cognitive function
It's no secret that socializing is good for us – it lowers stress levels, helps us stay active and engaged, and can even ward off depression. But did you know that social living can also support cognitive function? A recent study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that seniors who live in social environments have better cognitive function than those who live alone or with only a spouse.
The study participants were all over the age of 60 and were divided into three groups: those living alone, those living with a spouse or partner, and those living in group settings such as senior communities or retirement homes. The researchers used a variety of tests to assess the participants' cognitive function, including measures of memory, executive function, and processing speed.
The results showed that those in the group living situations performed better on the tests than those living alone or with a spouse. This was especially true for measures of executive function, which is the ability to plan and organize. The researchers believe that this is because social living provides seniors with opportunities to engage in activities that stimulate cognitive function, such as problem-solving and decision-making.
What does this mean for you and your aging loved ones? These findings underscore the importance of helping them maintain strong social connections if you have aging parents or loved ones.
The effects of loneliness and isolation on cognitive function
Of course, social living isn't just about maintaining cognitive function – it's also important for emotional wellbeing. Seniors who live in isolated or lonely situations are at risk for a number of mental and physical health problems, including depression, anxiety, and even heart disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors who reported feeling lonely had a 32% higher risk of stroke and a 29% increased risk of heart disease. Social isolation was also associated with a 50% increase in the risk of dementia.
The researchers believe these negative outcomes are because loneliness and isolation can lead to poor sleep, increased stress levels, and social withdrawal – all of which can take a toll on cognitive function.
The importance of lifelong learning
The findings of this study suggest that social living is important for seniors' cognitive function, but it's not the only factor. Lifelong learning – engaging in activities that stimulate the mind throughout the lifespan – is also crucial for maintaining cognitive health as we age.
Research has shown that seniors who engage in lifelong learning are less likely to experience cognitive decline and have a lower risk of developing dementia. So, if you're looking for ways to support your loved one's cognitive health, encourage them to keep learning new things. This could include taking classes, reading books, or even just trying out new hobbies.
What's most important is that they find activities they enjoy and make them a part of their regular routine. With your help, your loved one can maintain their cognitive function and enjoy a high quality of life for years to come.
More tips for staying mentally active and engaged
If you're worried about your loved one's cognitive function, there are a few things you can do to help them stay mentally active and engaged.
Encourage social activities
Staying socially connected is crucial for seniors' cognitive health. Help your loved ones find activities they enjoy and make it a priority to schedule time for them to participate. This could include anything from going to the movies or out to dinner with friends to joining a book club or taking a class.
Make sure they're getting enough exercise
Exercise is not only good for physical health, but it can also boost cognitive function. Make sure your loved one is getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity most days of the week. If they're not used to exercising, start slow and build up gradually.
Challenge their mind
Mentally challenging activities can help keep the brain active and improve cognitive function. Help your loved one find activities that are stimulating but not too difficult, such as Sudoku, crossword puzzles, or brainteaser apps. You can also encourage them to read books, learn a new language, or take up a new hobby.
Consider senior living environments
As the research shows, seniors who live in group settings have better cognitive function than those who live alone or with only a spouse. If your loved one is struggling to stay socially connected, you may want to consider a senior living community. These environments provide residents with opportunities to interact with their peers and participate in activities that stimulate cognitive function.
Maintaining social connections and engaging in lifelong learning are both important for supporting cognitive function in seniors. If you're worried about your loved one's mental health, consider ways to help them stay socially connected and mentally challenged.
Senior living communities can provide an ideal environment for socializing and staying mentally active. If you're considering this option for your loved one, be sure to visit a few communities to find the right fit. You can ask questions like:
What types of social activities do you offer?
Do residents have the opportunity to interact with people of all ages?
What are your cognitive stimulation activities?
How do you encourage residents to stay socially connected?
At a trustworthy senior living community like The Blake, residents will find a wealth of opportunities to enjoy their time and boost their cognitive function in the meantime so they can enjoy a high quality of life for years to come.
Curious about other ways to help your senior loved one stay connected? Let us know in the comments, or connect with us on social media! Our team is always happy to help point you in the right direction.
At first blush, the relationship between social living and cognitive function may not seem obvious. However, recent research has shown that there is a strong correlation between the two. In other words, people who have more opportunities for social interaction tend to have better cognitive function than those who do not. And while it's not entirely clear why this is the case, experts believe that social living helps keep our brains active and engaged. This is good news for seniors and their families alike! If your loved ones can maintain an active social life, it may help preserve their cognitive health well into old age. So how can you encourage social living among your elderly loved ones? Here are a few tips:
- Encourage them to get involved in community activities or groups related to their interests.
- Organize family gatherings or outings where they can spend time with friends and relatives.
- Make sure they have access to supportive technologies like Skype or Facetime, which allow them to connect with friends and family members from around the world.
- If necessary, provide transportation to get out and about on their own schedule.