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Healthy Aging Through Staying Connected

Healthy aging involves connections:
Healthy aging studies in recent years all continue to find that people who continue being active and involved with other people during their older years live longer, happier and healthier lives. Activities that have been identified as instrumental to healthy aging are volunteering, taking classes, engaging in hobbies, joining social groups, and pursuing spiritual or religious activities. Even if you’re confined to your home because of illness or disability, you may still maintain your connections with others by communicating over the telephone or e-mail. Maintaining connections with others through many of the following activities are some of the keys to healthy aging.
Healthy aging and volunteering:
It has been recognized for some time that there is a relationship between healthy aging and volunteering. Volunteering allows the opportunity for the elderly to use their skills and life experiences to benefit others. Hundreds and possibly thousands of organizations across the United States are happy to have elderly volunteers. Opportunities for volunteering are almost limitless, and may include working with other older adults in nursing homes, working with children or a multitude of other opportunities to benefit nonprofit or for-profit organizations and agencies.

Healthy aging and continuing education:
Lifelong learning is an interesting and effective way to continue to develop your mind as well as interact with other interesting people and learn new things. Many public libraries, community colleges and other public institutions offer a large variety of continuing education opportunities for the general public as well as many specific to the elderly. Classes may include anything from learning new languages, managing personal finances or even preparing income tax returns, as well as entertaining and creative topics such as music appreciation or painting.
Hobbies and social groups:
One of the best ways to maintain connections with others is through shared hobbies or mental and physical activities. You can either develop new hobbies or rediscover ones that you participated in at an earlier point in time. Although many activities can be done alone, you will usually find it is much more interesting and stimulating to do them with other people or groups. Hobbies that involve physical activity can be especially beneficial to an individual’s health.
Healthy aging through spirituality and religion:
Many studies have found a connection between healthy aging and spirituality and/or religion. Spirituality and religion have been found to aid in the sense of belonging many older people need as well as providing a sense of meaning and comfort to their lives. While many people use the terms spirituality and religion synonymously, they are similar but not identical concepts. Spirituality is usually more associated with an individual’s feelings and experiences, and religion is more often associated with the actual institutions, structures and traditions associated with an individual’s religious connections. Most older people in America consider themselves to be both spiritual and religious.The following healthy aging benefits have been found to be associated with religion and spirituality:
A more positive attitude and sense of hope about an individual’s life, illnesses and circumstances.
The social elements of a religious community can be very helpful in maintaining connections among individuals.
Religion and spirituality seem to promote a sense of meaning and purpose in life, especially when a person is facing difficult experiences in their life.
Many older people have found their religious community to provide the largest source of social support outside of their family, and their involvement in their religious community to be their most enjoyable form of voluntary social activity. They also find their religious community to be immensely helpful in assisting with carrying out their daily activities. Healthy aging benefits have also been found for people who attend religious services, in that they are also are more likely to be healthy, recover faster from illness or injury and also to live longer lives. Many people have found their religion to be the foundation of their ability to cope with health problems and stress, and a fundamental aspect of their healthy aging program.Information adapted from the Merck Manual of Health and Aging
Additional information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist 

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