Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to connect with others in your community, especially as we age. But it’s important to stay connected. Humans are social creatures, and socialization is vital to our overall health and wellness and is a major factor in healthy aging. Bryan James, an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, said “When you use your brain and body the way it was intended—as it evolved—you age better.” He continued to say, “We just aren’t meant to be disengaged from one another.”
Importance of Community as we Age
Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks of conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.1 Conversely, engaging in meaningful and productive activities with others can help you live longer, boost your mood, and give you a sense of purpose as well as improve cognitive function. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) identified the following as the three most beneficial aspects of community:2
- Belonging – Community provides a sense of belonging—being part of a group you identify with, have similar backgrounds and life experiences. When you feel like you belong, you feel embraced and appreciated.
- Support – Having a strong social support network is important in helping you through stressful times and situations. The lack of support can lead to isolation and loneliness.3 When you feel cared for and safe, you have a more positive outlook.
- Purpose – Having a sense of purpose gives us meaning to life. In a community, people fill different roles, and those roles can give you a feeling of purpose through bettering other people’s lives.4
How to Find a Community
Finding a community can help you thrive and survive and improve your overall wellbeing. Whether you have just moved to a new city or are simply looking for social connections, finding a community is important. But how do you go about finding the right one?
Volunteering for a cause that’s near and dear to you is a great way to find a community with shared beliefs while feeling a sense of belonging and purpose.
Take a Class
Continuing to learn can help keep our brains healthier as we age. Whether it’s a class at a local community college or an arts center, there are many types of programs from writing or literature to painting or photography that keep your mind active and put you with like-minded people.
Join a Gym or Exercise Group
Staying active and fit are important as we age. Joining a fitness group not only provides the opportunity to be active, but you also get a support group that’s great for motivation and friendship-building.
Related: 6 Unconventional Exercises That Don’t Feel Like A Workout
Being on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram has many benefits. They can help you feel more connected to family and friends and you can find people with similar interests when you join groups. Just be sure to balance social media with your emotional wellbeing.
Join a Support Group
A support group can be beneficial especially if you’re experiencing major life changes. They provide a safe space for support and socialization with others going through similar experiences.
Engage With Others in Your Retirement Community
If you live in a retirement community, you have access to a myriad of opportunities to connect with your community. Whether you participate in a book club or hit the golf course with friends, you’re sure to find a community that gives you purpose and support.
Finding like-minded people will help you feel accepted, valued, and supported. Feeling accepted for who you are gives you validation and a sense of self-worth. And knowing that you have people to support you when you’re in need gives you feeling of safety. No matter how you go about connecting with your community, always keep in mind your own values, beliefs, and interests.