Socialization & mental stimulation

The benefits of socialization are many. Here are just a few:

1. Live longer, be healthier.

Being with others is a basic human need. We all need social contact for conversation, interactions and to add variety and interest to our days. As you age, it can become that much more difficult, due to isolation.

A recent study at the University College London showed that social isolation leads to an increase in serious illnesses and reduced life span1. Even the nature of the participants’ health status was irrelevant. The risk of dying increased regardless of social isolation.

2. Get smarter.

Mayo Clinic studies have also shown that socialization improves your memory, emotional health and brain health.

3. Have more fun!

It goes without saying, participating in clubs or shared pastimes with others makes the activity that much more enjoyable. Laughter, cooperation and good conversation are all great outcomes of spending time with others.

You should consider activities that:

  • interest you
  • bring you together with like-minded people

An example: enroll in a dance class. It is highly social and fun, and it works the body and brain both. Studies from McGill University show that elderly participants in a tango class significantly improved both their physical fitness and memory.

Get your brain going…

Mind exercises are another important part of mental stimulation. Older adults can improve their memory and cognitive ability by actively participating in memory exercises. It’s like exercising your brain.

An interesting exercise:  Theory of Mind, where you try and guess what is being said or meant. Take several cartoon strips, and mix up their associated captions. Then test a friend or group on which caption matches which cartoon. This taps into a cognitive ability using your amygdala (emotional centre of the brain) and the fusiform gyrus (helps process facial expressions) in your pre-frontal cortex (executive function area). The pre-frontal cortex is involved in planning complex cognitive behaviours, decision-making and moderating social behaviors.

1   Paola Zaninotto and Andrew Steptoe, University College London (October 2012).  The Dynamics of Ageing:
Evidence from the ENGLISH LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF AGEING 2002-10 [Study published online]. Retreived from http://www.ifs.org.uk/ELSA/reportWave5