If your neighborhood is like mine, you are lucky if you catch sight of your neighbors between November and April. Come May, it seems like we all emerge and reconnect. And reconnecting is good for us as it turns out: as we age, staying connected becomes even more important to our longevity.
Studies show that having solid relationships with family, friends and neighbors highly impacts our chances of living a long life. A study of 7,000 men and women in California over a nine year period found that people who were “disconnected from others” were about three times more likely to die than people with strong social ties. In one report of adults with coronary artery disease, people who were socially isolated had nearly three times the death rate compared with those with strong friendships.
Another study, conducted by UnitedHealthcare, asked people turning 100 or older about their lifestyle choices. Results showed that staying connected was a contributing factor to hitting the century mark. Of those polled, 82 percent talk to a friend or family member every day, and nearly 80 percent feel that an active social life is more important to maintain as you age than an active sex life. Other studies have shown that those with stable marriages experience less mental decline due to aging and remain more mentally alert than their more isolated peers.
Social ties can even compensate for your bad habits. Research has shown that people with close friendships who had unhealthy habits like smoking and lack of exercise lived longer than healthy people who were more isolated. Friendships can also help get you through challenging health conditions. In a study of over 2,300 men who survived heart attacks, researchers discovered that those with strong social ties were far more likely to remain alive over the next three years.
Why are close friends and family ties good for us as we age? They give us emotional support that can help us cope with stress. They can be a positive influence, helping us to create and maintain healthy habits (workout buddies for example). Friendships give us a sense of self-esteem, and help us feel empathy for others. And here is the main factor: as we age, our friends and family give us a sense of purpose and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
So here is some of the most important advice you’ll ever get about aging well. Make new friends. Meet people through volunteering. Stay connected to others. Community Thread can help you get connected, regardless of the season. Give us a call at 651-439-7434 or stop by for a visit at 2300 Orleans St West.
By: Sally Anderson