There’s a fairly new idea in medicine known as epigenetics. Roughly, it is the idea that the environment—broadly described as everything that happens to you—can influence your genetics, leaving you more or less prone to disease or sickness.
No one is sure of the exact relationship between nature and nurture, but we do know that for older adults, isolation has a negative impact on health and wellness. Research has shown that genes responsible for inflammation become more active in isolated adults, while genes that defend against viral infection become more suppressed.
In a way, that’s just proving what we already know: Isolation is dangerous and deleterious for older adults. For most people, socialization is the key to a longer, healthier, and more productive life.
In the Bay Area, senior social groups help older adults to stay active. They help them stay part of the community, continually contributing, trying new things, and making new friends. Social groups provide an outside routine, as well as a break from routines. They help keep the older adults participating in the day-to-day thrum and bustle of life that makes the everyday a constant anticipation.
The Benefits of Social Groups for Seniors
We’ve covered before the dangers of isolation in older adults. These dangers can be:
- Emotional: Isolation is a cause of depression, anxiety, and increased rates of suicide. Unsurprisingly, even the perception of loneliness can lead to these conditions. That is to say, you can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. It’s important to have the right kind of social interaction, above and beyond proximity.
- Mental: Isolation has been shown to have a negative cognitive impact on older adults, partly because there is a lack of mental stimulation. An increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia can occur due to isolation. Interaction improves mental stimulation. It doesn’t matter if the event itself isn’t mentally rigorous; the act of meeting new people and participating in activities keeps the mind fresh.
- Physical: As we once talked about, people are often surprised that isolation can have physical effects. But in addition to the epigenetic factors described above, when older adults living at home don’t have someone to check on them every day, they face physical dangers, including risks of falls, prescription errors, and untreated medical crises, like heart attack or stroke. And, when an older adult doesn’t have someone to help them with nutritious meal planning and preparation, an aging adult’s state can quickly decline.
Social groups can provide the interaction and community to help prevent many of these dangers. But social groups aren’t just important in staving off the negative. Senior social groups in the Bay Area provide incredible positives.
Think of the mental aspect. Meeting someone new takes the courage of imagination and empathy. You don’t know everything about a person, so you have to think about who they are, what they enjoy, how to talk to them, the best way to interact, and search for common ground. Whether that person becomes the acquaintance of a passing afternoon or a true-blue friend, you have to learn something about them. That takes mental effort, imagination, and it requires an older adult to create new connections in their mind.
Senior social groups also create new literal connections. These groups are places where older adults interact, find friends, find a like-minded individual or people who challenge them, and where new activities can happen almost every day.
In short, senior social groups provide life. Life is, after all, about finding ways to explore the mystery of who you are and your place in this world. That doesn’t end when you retire or when you are officially a senior. It keeps going as long as you can.
In the Bay Area, senior social groups are a great way to keep up that adventure. Here are a few of ways to find some near you.
How to Find Senior Social Groups in the Bay Area
Where should you look to join a senior social group in the Bay area? Here are a few places to start:
Institute on Aging: At Institute on Aging, we’re proud to offer senior day programs, where older adults can participate in fun and challenging activities while hanging out with friends new and old. We provide the activity, transportation if needed, exercise, as well as homemade meals. It’s a group already prepared for you.
Meetup: Meetup.com is a site where people can register for groups and events. Many of these involve senior groups. Here is just a sampling of the groups you or a loved one can join:
- Bay Area Single Boomers Social Meetup
- Vintage Women of the South Bay
- Bay Area Senior Entrepreneurs Business Networking and Training
- East Bay Older Travelers
- Aging in Community
- Bay Area Seniors Rock
Bay Area Older Adults: This is a non-profit that helps older adults find events and organizations in the East Bay, South Bay, and the Peninsula. Their activities are grouped under the following categories:
- Art and history
These are great resources to begin with, but if you find you can’t find the right fit, you can always consider starting your own senior social group.
That’s the point of senior social groups. As you age, you can still forge your own path in life. You can still do the activities that excite you. You can try things that scare you. You can meet people that you’ve never known and discover new things about yourself. You don’t ever have to stop being you because you’ve gotten older. Senior social groups in the Bay Area are meant to help you continue being yourself, every day.
At Institute on Aging, we help older adults age in place, with dignity, respect, and adventure. Our programs and services help aging adults carry out their end-of-life wishes with their families and caregivers at their sides. Connect with us today to learn more.