Community Engagement and Connection
Research shows that social interaction supports overall physical, mental and emotional health and helps maintain brain health. People with strong social networks say they feel happier and more supported. Older adults also report increased levels of satisfaction and overall improved quality of life when they have a sense of purpose and are contributing to society. Many find this through volunteering and staying active and engaged in their communities.
Social connections are extremely important to people’s well-being and governments worldwide are investing in age-friendly initiatives. Age-friendly communities promote quality of life by supporting the social inclusion of older people. It’s easier to stay engaged and participate in a community if transportation is accessible, volunteer opportunities are available and there are places where seniors can safely walk and interact.
Consider the type of community you want to grow old in. Does it provide opportunities for social interaction? Can you walk to shops and services? Many of the age-friendly initiatives completed in B.C. have not only benefitted older adults, but have also made these communities more attractive for all residents. When older people are engaged and connected to their communities, everyone benefits.
Being socially isolated can carry some risks including cardiovascular disease, being less physically active, reduced mental and physical health, as well as depression.
Contact your local government, community centre or Volunteer BC to find out how you can help shape the community you live in.
If you are isolated/home-bound, or are not able to travel far from the home, you may want to consider connecting to the internet. Many seniors love using email and Skype. With Skype you can make free face to face video calls or voice calls with other Skype users. If you can’t attend a meeting, or a family event, you can still “be there” via your computer and Skype. You could participate in a book club meeting, read your grandchild a bedtime story, or have a coffee date and chat with a friend. As long as you have a good internet connection and a webcam you can enjoy interacting with others without leaving your home.
Online communities also provide opportunities for social interaction. There are a number of social media and information sites that offer discussion forums and information on a wide range of topics of interest to older adults.
What is an age-friendly community?
An age-friendly community provides welcoming public spaces, accessible transportation, affordable housing, employment and volunteer opportunities, information and services that fit seniors’ needs.