Seniors and Community – 5 Benefits of Being Connected
This new pandemic has everyone going crazy. We’re now faced with business closings, food and health care shortages, economic uncertainty and more. And the media isn’t, in my opinion, always the best source for positivity, though some outlets are improving. Since this all began and the coronavirus escalated in severity, I have tried to stick to as normal a routine as possible. I do not want this to control me physically, emotionally or spiritually. One way I do this is by staying in community with friends and family.
What is “community”? I went online to find as broad a definition as possible and decided to paraphrase Merriam-Webster, defining it as “people with common interests”. Examples of community include book clubs, sports teams, your office, family, a class, the YMCA, the people on your block, and more. The list is endless, you fill in the blank. My articles have always touched, in some way, on the idea of attaining independence and remaining so, especially for seniors.
You’re now questioning my sanity, saying community and independence are polar opposites. And you’d be correct. But they are each other’s yen and yang. To work together in a group, you must first learn to be independent. A football team works best when the efforts of its individual players work toward a unified goal. A book club has in common the book its members read privately and discuss later in a group. You can’t have one without the other.
Though we all take great pride in being independent, we are each, at heart, a social animal, needing to connect with others in some way. This sense of connectedness is important for everyone, not just seniors. Today, I will be sharing benefits of being connected and in community.
- Increases longevity – Emma Seppala, Ph.D., a leading expert in the science of social connection, quotes studies showing how community can increase an individual’s longevity.
- Boosts self-esteem – Tom Laborde, Chief Operations Officer at Aegis Senior Communities, has seen first-hand how seniors in community can increase one’s self-esteem. The support system ingrained in the community helps increase a sense of health and wellness.
- Sense of belonging – Jill Suttie, Psy.D., book review editor for Greater Good Magazine and frequent contributor, shows an example of how especially for seniors a sense of belonging can have multiple positive mental and physical health benefits.
- Less anxiety and depression – Maria Cohut, Ph.D., a writer for Medical News Today, cites several studies on the benefits of community involvement, including the lessening of anxiety and depression.
- Better physical health – Jane E. Brody, an author on science and nutrition and the Personal Health columnist for the New York Times, cites numerous studies showing that being connected to a community can lead to better physical health.
I hope you can see the benefits of being connected to a community or communities. There are multiple benefits, and I’ve only scratched the surface. Others I didn’t list include improved cognitive functions, a sense of purpose and belonging, feelings of hope, greater focus (collectively and individually), and a sense of happiness and well-being. There are probably a few more as well.
One of the buzzwords flying around all these studies is a relatively new field called social capital. In short, it is “the shared values, norms, trust, and belonging that makes social exchange possible.” Society and its institutions could not exist without it. I believe we can sum up the benefits of community and connectivity by likening it to the gestalt theory. We become stronger in community and have not only the ability to accomplish more but to also feel better physically and mentally. Make sure you and the senior in your life stay in community.
Obviously, isolation is not the answer to being healthy. It’s even more difficult in these times when social distancing, business, and institutional closings and stay-at-home orders are the new norms. Even with all this going on, there are still ways to stay in community and I encourage you to find those ways you can stay connected. I will be looking at these with you soon.