People are always talking about how to improve their health. Health advice runs the gamut from exhortations to eat the right foods, participate in the right exercise, or get the right amount of sleep. But thereâs another element to living a healthier life thatâs important to consider: the value of social supportâespecially for older adults.
Do you know someone who seems vital, content, and socially active? You know the kind of person Iâm talking about. Theyâre the ones who look 15 years younger than they are, who smile an awful lot, and who you feel drawn to because they exude warmth and confidence.
I know a person like this who lives next door to my parents. Her name is Vivienne and she is 91 years old. She lives in her own house, oversees the administration of an apartment building, and travels back and forth to Florida every winter to play a little golf in the sunshine. Whatâs Vivienneâs secret? Itâs not so much her diet, or her exercise regime, or even her genes. I really think Vivienneâs social skills and support network have sustained her throughout the 30 years since she officially became a senior citizen.
Vivienne is a member of the quilt guild. Now, quilting is not everyoneâs cup of tea, but for Vivienne, it gives her a community of friends she can rely on each and every week when she needs to vent, express anxieties, ask for help, or swap stories about health issues. I think having a community of friends, bonded over a common activity, gives Vivienne some of the best preventative medicine she could ever hope for. And, in fact, a recent clinical trial supports this idea too.
When U.S. researchers recently examined older adults and their social support network, they found that those with strong ties to their community, family, and friends had a better sense of order in their lives, more self-control, a better sense of responsibility, and an overall better sense of conscientiousnessâwhich are exactly the traits that Vivienne embodies. She is conscientious, thoughtful, and seems to really care about the people around her.
Social support could almost be thought of as a life-saver. It certainly seems to have carried Vivienne to a ripe old age. Why not build your social network, especially if youâve become a little isolated lately? Join a group, participate in an activity, or offer to volunteer somewhere meaningful to you.
And while every social connection has its ups and downs, make sure you find a place to belong where you donât feel threatened, anxious, or disconnected from others. After all, your health depends on more than just prescriptions or remediesâand finding a social support group will make you happier and healthier.
Source(s) for Todayâs Article:
Hill, P.L., et al, âPerceived Social Support Predicts Increased Conscientiousness During Older Adulthood,â J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. April 10, 2013, published online ahead of print.