Are you doing everything you can to protect your health as you age? You may exercise, eat right and see your doctor regularly, but experts say another factor – social engagement – can help boost both your mental and physical well-being.

If you’re looking for a way to stay young, creating and maintaining social connections may provide part of the solution.

Why Are Connections to Others so Important?

Experts have found that maintaining your social connections – or increasing them over time – can protect your health in a number of ways. Researchers focusing on heart disease say social isolation is a greater risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke than smoking. By staying socially engaged, you cultivate a sense of purpose, boost your enjoyment of life and increase your motivation to participate in healthy activities. All of this can add up to feeling better and staying healthier longer.

As people age, normal changes in brain function can make it tougher to remember information or to learn new things. In individuals suffering from dementia, the brain changes can become so serious that they interfere with the quality of life. In some cases, keeping your mind stimulated – including interactions with friends – can help keep depression and dementia at bay.

In addition, maintaining social connections may provide physical benefits, including slowing the progression of existing health problems.

How Can You Stay Socially Engaged in Assisted Living?

In your assisted living community, you’ll find a variety of ways to maintain connections to friends and to stay socially active. For example, you can:

  • Take classes in art, language and other areas of interest.
  • Enjoy lively conversations over meals.
  • Participate in group exercise classes.
  • Attend lectures, performances and movie screenings.
  • Enjoy spending time with visitors of all ages.
  • Pursue hobbies you love.
  • Participate in volunteer efforts.
  • Play games and work on puzzles with friends.

The Next Best Thing to Being There

A newer – although equally effective – method for staying socially engaged is technology. If you’re already tech-savvy, you can enjoy using the internet and social media in your assisted living community’s computer lab or in your own residence to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. And if you’re a so-called “newbie,” don’t worry! You’ll find plenty of friends who can show you the ropes, get you started and provide support if you’re stumped.

Social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family members who may have busy schedules or live far away. Maybe you can’t be at a grandchild’s school performance, graduation or wedding in person, but with video conferencing and other tech tools, you can “virtually” attend.

Experts note that people over 74 make up the fastest-growing age group in internet social networks. If you haven’t yet embraced the technology trend for staying socially engaged, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so in your assisted living community.

Maintaining a Vibrant Quality of Life

If you’re considering a move to assisted living, keep in mind there are stimulating activities and opportunities to make new friends. You may find your social calendar busier than ever! And by keeping a focus on social engagement, experts say, you boost your chances of maintaining your health, vitality and well-being as you age.