Although Utah has a growing millennial population, the number of baby boomers is also increasing. According to Suburban Stats, those who are between 70 and 74 years old now number over 25,000.
The Beehive State has at least 14,000 seniors around 80 years old. Meanwhile, about 10,000 are 85 years old and above.
Several decide to stay in place—that is, spend their sunset years when they have lived for a long time. But this increases the risk of ending up living alone. Multiple studies have already shown that older people may actually benefit from living in places like a retirement community.
- It Can Help Reduce the Risk of Cognitive Decline
The more a person grows old, the more likely they will experience in their cognition. By the time they’re already a senior, they may already have to deal with memory lapses. They are also at an increased risk of brain conditions like dementia.
Some studies, however, reveal that increasing social activities, which older people can get when they’re surrounded by friends or community, may help slow that down or reduce the odds.
Prior to 2011, Rush University Medical Center studied over 1,000 older adults with a mean age of 80. These individuals were part of the facility’s project that researched aging-related chronic illnesses.
For this particular experiment, they wanted to test the cognitive abilities of some participants. First, they asked the subjects about their level of socialization and the kinds of social activities they did. They then underwent a series of cognitive tests that measure their memory, visuospatial ability, and perceptual speed.
At the beginning of the test, none showed signs of cognitive problems. But five years after, those who participated in more social activities seemed to have better cognition. The most socially active experienced only a fourth of cognitive impairment experienced by those who had the least interactions.
A 2019 study seemed to corroborate the 2011 Rush research. But this time, the University of College London stressed that being socially active when one hits their fifties or sixties could decrease the risk of dementia in the future.
In particular, 60-year-old men and women who met with their friends regularly could reduce dementia problems by 12 percent compared to those who saw one or two people every few months.
The association between dementia and social contact became less statically significant among those older than 60. But overall, the researchers said that socialization at any age can still count toward preventing or reducing dementia risk.
- Being Surrounded by People Can Encourage Older Adults to Become Physically Healthy
Compared to other older adults in the United States, those who live in Utah are less likely to be obese. In 2019, the prevalence rate of adult obesity in the state was 30 percent. The national average was 31.5 percent.
However, older adults, especially seniors, are susceptible to excess weight. Many live a more sedentary lifestyle, probably due to the onset of chronic diseases, the risk of falling, less muscle tone, poorer hand grip or strength, failing eyesight, and even depression.
Living a sedentary lifestyle, though, can only make many of the conditions worse since it increases the risk of obesity. To keep older adults active, some studies suggest they may need to see more people.
In a 2019 research by the University of Texas at Austin, those who see a wide range of people regularly seemed to spend less time on the couch. They also possessed better emotional well-being, which means they’re less anxious or depressed.
Older adults who hang out with friends may also likely keep up with their fitness routine. This is the finding of the University of British Columbia in 2018 after experimenting with older participants with an average age of 72.
For the study, all participants joined a 12-week class, after which they could extend their workouts to 12 more classes. They then divided the group into three, depending on their gender and age.
In 24 weeks, all groups extended their classes. However, the purely-older-adults group adhered to the fitness workouts longer. The ones in the same-gender, same-age group averaged 30 classes. Meanwhile, the group of older adults but with mixed genders worked out for over 33 classes.
This is good news as the benefits of exercise don’t diminish with age. In fact, it can build muscle, reduce the risk of heart disease, slow down the progression of other chronic illnesses, and improve mood.
With proper guidance and safety, it is not dangerous either. A 2020 research said that exercise intensity doesn’t increase the risk of premature death among adults.
Humans are social creatures, after all. Inasmuch as we’d like to be alone, especially when we get older, we may be healthier when we’re surrounded by others who can become our friends.
Meta title: Here’s How Socialization Can Help Older People
meta desc: Utah also has a growing older population, and many often decide to age in place alone. Several studies, though, show that they can enjoy a better quality of life when they’re in retirement communities surrounded by friends. This article cites two major reasons.