Living an active life
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128, 25 August 2023, page no.30
One consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many of us have learned to live a quiet life over the past few years, not venturing out too far as the infections have not been totally controlled. Some have become satisfied with our own company and have not continued with the medical support offered. This means the infection is still very active in the community.
It is well known that we are social beings and like to keep in touch with family and friends, but I was not aware that by doing so our brains actually benefit. Research has shown that those who take part in group social activities have lower levels of mental decline and memory loss. Fifty-year-olds with a good social life performed more like 46-year-olds, and the functional saving was even greater in older people, with 80-year-olds performing more like 70-year-olds.
How important is social support as a person ages? This may seem like an easy question to answer. Most people would not choose isolation and loneliness versus spending time with companions. However, a lack of social support really can hinder a person’s overall quality of life.
Lack of social support impacts on health and wellbeing. A variety of positive social supports can contribute to psychological and physical wellness. Support from others is important in reducing stress, increasing physical health, and defeating psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.
When considering who provides social support, our first thoughts are family members. While this is true, there are many circumstances in which family members cannot be supportive. Community-based services are more important now than ever before.
Support can be found in many places, including senior centres, assisted living facilities, meal delivery, religious affiliations, and day centres, to name a few. These services provide positive social supports that can help older people defeat loneliness and isolation.
But social support must encompass more than physical presence or conversation. Studies have shown that social support services should contain quality activities. Maybe you need support or maybe you could volunteer to help others in some capacity?
Self-awareness is the key to a person’s overall quality of life and satisfaction. Many social activities can help increase individuals’ self-awareness including groups, journal writing, book readings, group exercise, and singing groups. Individuals may also feel more self-satisfied if they are part of the social activities planning.
The Queensland Retired Teachers’ Association organises monthly activities to provide members with socialisation while continuing lifelong learning in various areas.
So, if you are able to participate in the wide range of activities available for retirees, don’t put it off. Go and join the fun! It’s great to get out, meet friends and learn something new.