Everyday Ways to Support Successful Aging: Social Connection

When it comes to healthy aging, quite honestly, there’s a lot to do. You’re supposed to make sure to keep your body active and your brain engaged all while maintaining your social connections as well. Sure, the benefits to your overall well-being are worth the effort, but retirement is supposed to be a time with less responsibility on your plate, right? Well, it turns out that in senior living you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here’s how programs like our Vivid Life make keeping active, engaged, and connected easy and fun! 

Benefits of Healthy Aging 

Good things happen when you focus on healthy aging. In addition to feeling better overall, which in and of itself is a win, other benefits of keeping active, engaged, and connected include:  

  • Improved ability to do everyday things ​ 
  • Reduced impact of illness and chronic disease​ 
  • Enhanced mobility, flexibility, and balance
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy level
  • Reduced feelings of depression and stress
  • Increased feelings of happiness and self-confidence
  • Reduced risk of cognitive decline 
  • Increased mental adaptability and cognitive reserve 
  • Improved memory recall and problem-solving skills 
  • Improved concentration and attention to detail  

How Senior Living Can Help 

At home, particularly when living alone, it can be hard to stay as active, engaged, and connected as you’d like. From lack of opportunity to lack of motivation to lack of transportation to mobility challenges, and more, it’s tough, we get it! That’s why we created the Vivid Life program in our senior living communities. It’s composed of three parts: Vibrant Body, Vibrant Brain, and Vibrant Connections. Here’s what each entails:  

Vibrant Body We offer amenities such as a state-of-the-art fitness center, a pool, walking trails, gardening opportunities, and even a dog park to help you stay active. A sample of activities includes:  

  • Walking club – Daily walks at different outdoor locations using pedometers to measure steps. 
  • Yoga – At least once per week for gentle yoga, and once per week for mindful breathing. 
  • Fitness classes – At least two times per week using a variety of hand weights, resistance bands, and circuit-type exercises. 
  • Tai Chi – At least once per week with a live instructor. 
  • Non-traditional exercise – Dancing, gardening, etc. at least two times per week. 
  • Physical games and sports – Golf, putting, bowling, croquet, bocce, and ping pong available daily with organized events one to two times per week. 

Vibrant Brain We offer monthly calendars filled with classes, events, creative arts, and enrichment opportunities to help keep you engaged. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Visiting lecture series – Twice per month with topics such as cultural, historical, local interest, career-oriented, etc. 
  • Creative art series – At least one per week with a theme that runs 3-6 weeks, such as poetry writing, storytelling, painting, digital photography, etc. 
  • Learning series – At least three times per month with an emphasis on learning something new such as foreign language, sign language, technology, hobbies, etc. 
  • Games – At least one time per week and may include poker, bridge, Scrabble, etc. 
  • Mindfulness – A meditation class once per week and gratitude discussion group twice monthly. 
  • Church service – At least once a week through visits by local churches. 
  • Stress reduction – At least once per month class that offers deep breathing exercises, nature walks, music appreciation, spa-type treatments, etc. 

 Vibrant Connections We offer resident-led clubs, social events, outings and volunteer opportunities for any interest to help you stay connected. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Outings – At least twice per month and may include going to concerts, art shows, museum visits, theatre productions, etc. 
  • Intergenerational programming – At least once per month and focuses on building relationships between young adults/children and residents. 
  • New resident welcome party – At least once per month to formally introduce all new residents, and includes ice breakers, social games, etc. to encourage connection. 
  • Philanthropic program – At least once per month provide residents the opportunity to give back to the community, such as volunteering for a local food bank or pet shelter. 
  • Resident-led clubs – May include game clubs, professional clubs, common interests, etc. that meet at least monthly.  

What’s more, it’s all right outside your door (or transportation is provided offsite) and all in a supportive environment with home maintenance, housekeeping, and restaurant-style dining freeing your time to make it even easier to stay active, engaged, and connected. 

Learn more about Vitality Living’s Vivid Life programs. Or find a Vitality Living community near you today to schedule a tour. 

blog-family-decision-guide

 

So far, 2020 has decidedly been one of the most unsocial years we’ve ever endured. The experts say staying apart can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. And we’re all doing our part! But is there a downside aside from boredom and loneliness? Research among residents in Blue Zones®, five regions in the world where people seem to live the longest, cite belonging and social connections as keys to successful aging. The question becomes, how can we stay social while protecting ourselves during the pandemic? We happen to have some everyday ways to do just that!

For more information on how we incorporate the Blue Zones’ approach to fitness in senior living, check out our Successful Secrets to Aging Guide!

senior living guide to aging well

Importance of Social Connection in Blue Zones

These regions – Sardinia, Italy; the Greek island of Ikaria; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan – have been identified as Blue Zones. While far from each other, residents in these regions all share similar lifestyle traits known as the Power 9® which researchers believe help them to live longer.  We’ve discussed all these traits in past blogs , but three of which specifically relate to social connection:

  • Belong – Participate in a faith-based community of some kind.
  • Loved Ones First – Put family first in all decision making.
  • Right Tribe – Find a circle of friends that share your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Doing Blue Zones during COVID-19

It may look a bit different but it is possible to maintain social connection during the pandemic even as seniors are continuing to isolate at home and visitors remain restricted in senior living. Here’s what Blue Zones’ residents do and how you can apply these practices to support successful aging right now.

Belong 

After interviewing 263 centenarians, Blue Zones’ researchers found all but five of them belonged to some type of faith-based community. In fact, their research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add four to 14 years of life expectancy. Denomination doesn’t matter, just regular participation. What can you do? Most religious organizations are offering church services online. Some even offer live chats and small group studies via Zoom as well. Check locally to see what options might be available.

Loved Ones First

Blue Zones’ residents ensure aging parents and grandparents are either nearby or living in their home which, according to research “lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.” Residents also commit to a life partner which “can add up to three years of life expectancy” per Blue Zones research.What can you do? Make use of Zoom and FaceTime to video chat with at least one family member each day. And make it fun: have coffee, lunch or dinner together virtually, watch favorite shows together, create a virtual book club or game night – the options are endless. In our senior living communities, we’re encouraging window visits between residents and loved ones and have hosted family parades which have been a huge hit!

Right Tribe

However it came to be, whether they chose or were born into their social circles, the connections of Blue Zones’ residents, “favorably shaped their health behaviors.” Okinawans call it “moais,” which are groups of five friends committed to each other for life.What can you do? We mentioned above the downside of being isolated is much more than feeling bored and lonely. It can actually be unhealthy leading to increased risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, weakened immune system, anxiety, depression even cognitive decline. Again, technology is a lifeline right now. Look into online clubs, classes or hobbies that might give you more opportunity to connect with your current circle, or to expand it. And pets are part of the tribe too! This is the perfect opportunity to spend more time with them.

Vitality Living half Blossom
Skip to content