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Enjoy these physical and mental health benefits when you spend time with others.

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If you’re looking for an easy way to improve your mental health as you age—and maybe even prolong your life—you may want to think about socializing more. Having strong social connections has been shown to have many health benefits for people of all ages, but especially for older adults. So it may just be that if you want to feel younger, and better, all you have to do is be more social.

A strong social life has been linked to mental health benefits, like less depression, more positive moods and fewer negative feelings. Research has also shown that people who have a wider social circle tend to be more physically active. The researchers suggest that when older adults socialize with a variety of family, close friends, casual friends, acquaintances and even strangers, they’re more likely to leave the house to engage with other people, making them more active.

“Time and again research shows that an active social life is equated with a longer life. Isolation disproportionately effects older adults and is directly linked to worse health outcomes. Being more social doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, just use your imagination. But the hardest step is the first: pick up the phone and send that text or make that call to your family, friends, or acquaintances and make some plans!”

-Dr. John C. Marston, Internal Medicine

Being more physically active offers a host of physical health benefits, from improving cardiovascular health and warding off disease to helping people maintain a healthy weight and improving sleep. It also contributes to better emotional health and may boost cognitive ability.

About 28 percent of older adults live alone, according to the National Institute on Aging. Living alone can lead to social isolation and loneliness. Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks of many mental and physical health conditions, from depression and anxiety to high blood pressure, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease, among others. But studies show that being engaged in more social activities tends to counteract the negative effects of living alone.

25 Ideas for Being More Social

Ready to be more social? There are many ways older adults can enjoy more social connections. In addition to staying in touch with close family and friends, consider trying one or more of the following activities:

    1. Take a class to learn something new
    2. Join a book group
    3. Find a club focused on hobbies you enjoy
    4. Play cards or games
    5. Enroll in a dance class
    6. Join a gym or exercise group
    7. Play with your grandkids
    8. Find a walking group (in the mall or outdoors)
    9. Attend a show or musical performance
    10. Teach a skill to others
    11. Make a meal and invite family or friends over
    12. Join a local singing group or theater troupe
    13. Visit with neighbors
    14. Meet a friend or acquaintance for coffee or a meal
    15. Go on a bus trip or tour
    16. Help in a community garden
    17. Join a bowling or bocce league
    18. Travel with an organized group
    19. Visit a museum (many have free group tours)
    20. Reconnect with old friends
    21. Volunteer in your community
    22. Join a committee where you live or worship
    23. Adopt a pet – or offer to walk or care for shelter animals
    24. Attend activities at your local senior center
    25. Ask a friend to go to the movies with you

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Date Last Reviewed: March 20, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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