One of the trends researchers are seeing is a drop in social engagement among the age 55-to-64 crowd, compared to what was typical twenty years ago.
Social engagement normally encompasses interaction with friends and family, and involvement with volunteering and spiritual groups, work and neighbors.
Why this matters: Social engagement is critical to keep you healthy, happy and in tip-top mental state. One of the biggest dangers to people of all ages is loneliness and isolation, so staying involved with friends and your community is a badge of good health.
Why it’s happening: Research scientist Tamara Sims, of Stanford’s Center on Longevity, shared with AARP magazine five reasons you could be losing touch with friends and family.
You’re always on your phone and not engaging in face-to-face interactions. In fact, other studies appear to suggest a link between too much social media use and loneliness and depression.
You’ve moved around, part of today’s new transitory lifestyles, and no longer have roots in your community.
Your adult kids are back living at home, and your time (and money) is being spent on them rather than with friends outside the home.
You’re still on the job. Let’s face it. It’s hard to socialize when you have to wake up early for work. When your old group of friends is retired, you have a classic mismatch of time, interests and responsibilities. It’s harder to make the relationships work.
You’re squeezed between taking care of Mom and Dad, or maybe babysitting the grandkids. Caregiving responsibilities cut into personal freedom and fun time with friends.
What to do about it: Consider volunteering with a community group to meet people and focus on good deeds. Carve out a set day each week to catch up with friends, go out on the town, or enjoy some fun activities. If you do help take care of the parents or grandkids, don’t forget to set boundaries, plan for respite time, or call for help when you need it. Take up a new hobby, plan an adventurous trip, or learn a new skill; a local university or college might offer an interesting lecture series or low-cost classes that can help keep you social and your mind sharp.
Many baby boomers are single due to widowhood, divorce, or simply because they never married. Others are part of a couple, but are on their own when it comes to entertainment. Yes, this may mean you need to spend extra effort on planning activities and connecting with friends. We have one client who meets up with out-of-town friends on international or weekend travels, another who met new people by signing up for bridge lessons, and a third who learned to do stained glass (and decorated her kitchen cabinets!) after she retired. The lesson: whatever your interests, reach out and share. Social engagement is food for your mind.