Having a social network is important to the body, mind, and spirit. People who are socially active tend to be healthier, happier, and less likely to become depressed. Yet many women have less contact with other people as they get older, sometimes because of a disability that makes getting out of the house difficult, sometimes because friends and family members die or move away over time. If women don’t make new friends and social contacts, they may experience social isolation, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and affect their sense of well-being.
To stay socially active, make a point of getting out of the house. Make dates with your friends to go out to lunch or to the mall. Better yet, make plans to exercise regularly with a friend or group of friends. Exercising with others is usually more fun than exercising on your own, and it can help you stick with your exercise program.
Some other ways to increase your social interaction include volunteering at a school, library, museum, park, or nonprofit organization; participating in a church group or choir; taking a class at a community college; and joining a book club through your public library or a nearby bookstore. Contact your local senior center to see if it serves lunch, shows movies, or offers dance, exercise, craft, or other kinds of classes. You can also check with your senior center to see if your town has a reminiscence group that you can take part in. Attending a diabetes support group is a good way to meet and socialize with other people who have diabetes and may be facing the same challenges as you are. Check with your senior center or local hospital to see if it offers one. If you live in a retirement community, take advantage of the social and recreational activities offered.
If transportation is a problem for you, see if your senior center offers rides to its events. You can also have family and friends come to you — invite them to your house for parties, meals, or card nights. And don’t forget about using the phone, e-mail, or letters to stay in touch with friends and loved ones — whether they live close by or far away.
All too often, older women with hearing problems are reluctant to socialize because they find it difficult or embarrassing to try to communicate with others. If a hearing impairment is keeping you from socializing with others, talk to your doctor. You may benefit from using hearing aids.
Counting to 10
The more you do to stay healthy, the better you will feel. And now that you’re equipped with these ten tips you know just what to do. But don’t try to change everything at once. Begin with small changes to your routine — such as devoting a few minutes each day to foot care, scheduling more social outings with your friends, or remembering to get your flu shot — and work up to the bigger ones, such as stopping smoking. Incorporate the advice we’ve given into your routine tip by tip until you follow all 10. The payoff could be a healthier, happier life in the years to come.