In the fight against dementia, a rich social life may be just as important as cognitive calisthenics. According to a recent study, staying connected with family and friends may delay memory decline among the elderly.

This month’s issue of the American Journal of Public Health features a study conducted out of the Harvard School of Public Health, which looked at the effects of social integration on memory. Almost 17 thousand older adults were followed for a six year period and their memory tested over time. The people were categorized by marital status, volunteer activity, and frequency of contact with children, parents, and neighbors. Memory was assessed by immediate and delayed recall of a 10-word list.

Researchers found that highly social people had less memory decline (all participants had some memory decline) than their less social counterparts. And people with the least social integration had twice the rate of decline than the most socially integrated. Gives you something to think about when considering whether to let that ol’ crotchety pal of yours go, doesn’t it?

What wonderfully pleasant results coming out of the social and psychological sciences. Yes, we are social organisms. We thrive when interacting with others. Socialization is one of the seven major areas of life (along with physical, mental, spiritual, familial, financial, and vocational aspects) and it’s a fact that each one effects the others enormously. And now we know just how much socialization effects our mental and physical health.

As energetic organisms we need to have energetic exchanges regularly with other life forms. The most obvious is with our own species. However, I do believe that people can receive this necessary exchange with nature too. And some people can get all their energetic interaction needs fulfilled through nature–you know, the Dr. Doolittles of the world, Euell Gibbons, and such. But the social recluse who sits at home, watching T.V. and cursing the world is doomed to a later life of rapid mental decline.

Bottom line is this: If you want to stay sharp into old age, increase your social life. It’s fun. It’s healthy. It’s happenin’. Socializing is a great way to stay young.

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