Social Determinants on Physical and Mental Health

Strengthening Social Connections: A Key to Staying Healthy


One thing that the recent pandemic taught us is that we really do need people in our lives. Science has established clear links between staying socially connected and maintaining good physical, and mental health. Social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of:

  • Weakened immunity
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cognitive Decline
  • Dementia
  • Obesity
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease

Cheerful senior having fun while taking selfie at retirement community.In our younger days, social connection was relatively easy. Work provided opportunities to socialize, feel a sense of purpose, and celebrate achievements. Good health and energy fueled participation in sports, events, and casual get-togethers. Friends and family were readily available, making connection effortless and enjoyable.

However, aging presents new hurdles. Retirement removes a built-in social network, and integrating into new groups can feel awkward at first. Physical limitations might decrease opportunities for connection as well. Furthermore, grief and loss of loved ones can leave significant gaps, requiring time to rebuild the social fabric once filled by dear companions.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can deal with social isolation and the ensuing loneliness by taking advantage of the many resources that are available to people in retirement and who live at Acacia Village. It will take some work and intentionality, but the rewards are happiness, connection, and good health. Worth it, right?

Here are some recommendations we found for dealing with social isolation and loneliness as we age. At Acacia Village, we’ve seen many residents use these methods and more to connect with old friends or in making new ones:

Stay Physically Active, Especially in Groups: Physical activity is widely recognized as beneficial for health. Adding social interaction significantly enhances its impact. Exercising with others can make the experience easier and more effective. Activities like joining a walking club, taking a swimming class, or simply finding a friend willing to join you can make exercise more rewarding and easier to make time to do. Here at Acacia Village, we have a fitness center, a pool, and walking paths for our residents to use for their recreation and exercise.

health center at acacia village in utica ny

 Revisit an Old Hobby or Find a New One: Engaging in hobbies or special interests helps you stay engaged in the world. Hobbies can foster bonds with others and expand your knowledge of the activities that enrich you. Also, communities centered around shared interests provide a broad and deep network for connection and socializing.

Find a Faith-Based Group: Places of worship such as churches, temples, and synagogues offer ideal settings for engaging in meaningful activities with like-minded individuals. Deepening your spiritual practice is often more enjoyable with friends and fellowship. If you were previously part of a recovery group, you can always return and be welcomed.

Expand Your Knowledge and Use of Technology: It’s never too late to learn! Technology, in particular,  can help you connect with others locally and globally. The pandemic encouraged many hesitant individuals to adopt video technology, which they now use regularly. People around the world are connecting via devices with cameras for deeper connections and interactions. Explore available resources to help you use basic technology to stay in touch with your relatives and old friends who live further away. If you’re one of those tech-savvy types, consider helping others in your community get connected.

Online Video Games: More and more people over the age of 60 are playing online games and participating in related game centered communities. Online gaming can range from a simple arcade or word games with strangers to complex multiplayer role-playing games set in a whole different world.

Scheduling Connection Time: Proactively making contact with people in your social network is essential. Don’t wait for others to reach out to you; initiate contact regularly. Scheduling social interactions gives you and your loved ones something to look forward to and think about afterwards. The medium you use to contact is less important than the frequency: mail a card, make a phone call, send a text, enjoy a video call, or play an online game together. Deliberately making time for your friends and loved ones will provide you with the enriching reward of connection.Retirement living socializing outdoors

These are just a few ways to connect and engage with others. Finding your people, your cause, your purpose, or satisfying your curiosity will help keep your horizons broad and your outlook healthy. Living in a socially active community like The Neighborhoods of Acacia Village offers numerous opportunities to meet and connect with your neighbors and enjoy longer, happier lives.

Additional Information

National Institute on Aging and Health About Loneliness and Isolation

AARP Article on Dealing With Loneliness

National Alliance on Mental Illness— Several resources and information

Retirement living testimonial

“One of the joys of being here is the comfort of being amongst friends.”

- Tom Smedley, Acacia Village Resident

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