One of the most stressful parts of growing older is the increased isolation from our peers and the world in general. As we retire and leave the workplace, our daily dose of social activity is drastically reduced. Even something as mundane as workplace gossip, which seems silly on the surface, feeds our minds hunger for social interaction and group dynamics. As we age into elderhood, our options for invigorating conversation and social interaction start to dimmish. Friends pass on, work life ends, our ability to participate in activities diminishes, etc.
Socialization is critically important to all of our mental health, no matter our ages. From childhood through adulthood to elderhood, being able to talk to other people and share our lives and experiences is a critical part of how we view the world, how we view ourselves, and how we function as human beings. When that is lost or diminished, it can have detrimental effects on our own mental health.
A recent study by the University of West London's Geller Institute of Aging and Memory compared the memory skills of older adults and compared them to those same adults’ social activities and person-to-person interaction. What they found was that older adults who partake in digital interaction, such as Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime, had a better chance of long-term memory retention and the ability to maintain working memory skills. The conclusion of this study is: while your face-to-face social time declines (especially during a pandemic!), supplementing it with virtual interaction like a video phone call can have a significant positive impact on long-term mental health prognosis, especially for elders.
At Senior Steps, our geriatric care managers are very well-versed in helping our clients use new methods of communication and socialization to keep themselves socially busy and occupied. We found that our clients who consistently maintain a social schedule, whether virtual or in person, have a better long-term prognosis for cognitive decline and memory issues. Staying busy is a good thing! And so is staying in touch with friends and family.