Isolation is a common side effect of entering retirement. It's easy enough to see why - most of the socialization people experience before retirement is through work. Once you stop regularly going into the office, your main source of daily interaction is suddenly gone. This means that retirees need to make an active effort to get out and socialize. It's not just a matter of maintaining friendships and having fun - isolation can have a seriously negative impact on your physical and mental health.
The effect of isolation
Failing to socialize has more ramifications than boredom. One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal suggests that people who are socially disconnected are actually likely to live shorter lives than those with rich social circles. The study concludes that efforts to increase socialization are linked to improved mortality rates. Loneliness has also been linked to weakened immune systems and poor nutrition.
The mental effects of isolation cannot be overlooked. According to the CDC, up to 5 percent of seniors have depression. Those rates are higher when you look at populations with other chronic health conditions. Depression and social disconnect feed into each other, creating a self-sustaining cycle. Depressed people are more likely to spend more time in solitude, which can lead to feelings of loneliness, which increases the odds of experiencing depression - it goes on and on.
How socialization helps
There are a number of reasons having an active social life makes seniors happier and healthier. For starters, friends can serve as a support group. This can mean emotional support when you're going through a difficult time. It can also be very literal - for example, say you're going to have a minor surgery sometime soon. The more friends you have, the more people you can ask for help as you're recovering. Moreover, interacting with others can actually influence the chemicals your brain produces. This has positive effects on your immune system and mental health, and it even reduces the speed and likelihood of cognitive decline.
Ideas for socialization during retirement
The reality still stands that retirees have to create their own socialization opportunities. If you're not sure where to start, here are a few ideas:
- Attend a fitness group at a nearby gym or community center.
- Take a class.
- Join a club.
- Audition for a play.
These are just a few of the ways you can spend your time around others and improve you physical and mental health.