Currently viewing the tag: "seniors"

Find Facebook pointless? Step off: Facebook and other social media can be great for the health.  In fact, anything that gets people interacting regularly can impact health positively. So says a recent study showing that people with strong social relationships have 50% less chance of dying early than people without such support.

According to the study, a meta-analysis examining social relationships and their effects on health, low social interaction was

  • equivalent to being an alcoholic
  • equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes/day
  • more harmful than not exercising
  • two times more harmful than obesity

And increasing one’s social interactions had a bigger impact on premature death than taking an adult vaccine to prevent pneumonia or taking drugs for high blood pressure.

The authors of the study, a team at Brigham Young University in Utah, suggest that government policymakers should look at ways to help people maintain social relationships as a way of keeping the population healthy. They speak specifically in relation to seniors, as that part of the population has the greatest chance of living in isolation.

May I suggest seniors’ play centers? Oh, people could go to these centers to play cards or board games, watch sporting events or exercise. They could hold classes, have speakers and host other fun events. I know that many communities have these clubhouse-type centers already—I know of a few in Florida, myself—but I think this might be a useful expenditure of government money. Why not? If social interactions have such a high impact on health, then why not spend a little money on it? Make the clubhouses nice and have one in every neighborhood.

Everybody dive into Facebook, Twitter and any other social media that allows people to interact 24/7—it’s good for the health!


How can seniors both reduce the effects of aging on the brain and give back to society? By tutoring children, that’s how. And it is exactly what thousands of elders are doing–teaching kids how to read, write and do math–giving many of the older folk a renewed sense of purpose.

According to a recent study, seniors who have volunteered for Experience Corps, a program matching elementary students in low-income schools with seniors who serve as tutors, showed improvements in the “executive function” regions of the brain involved in thinking and the ability to organize multiple tasks. The children had much greater reading comprehension and ability to sound out words compared to kids who were not tutored.

The study looked at eight women considered high risk of cognitive impairment because of their low income status, low education level [they had only completed an average of 12 years of school (high school)] and low scores on a cognition test. Researchers say that these preliminary results are encouraging, especially if they can carry over to prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Very nice. And no surprise to me. I know how important keeping the mind sharp is to staying young and vibrant. Obvious? Not really. The process of learning is instrumental in creating new dendrites, which leads to new processing pathways formed in the brain. New processing pathways = youth. Old processing pathways = wisdom. Youth + wisdom = vibrancy, influence and growth. Who doesn’t value that?

Research shows that keeping the mind conditioned through systematic mental exercise can protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, physical exercise helps too–particularly cardiovascular work–and we know how vital staying social is to warding off cognitive decline; but when it comes to maximal brain function and protection, nothing beats good old fashioned learning.

On a final note, there is evidence that having “purpose” can actually prolong life–and volunteering is one phenomenal way to go about it. A recent study showed that retirees over age 65 who volunteered had less than half the risk of dying compared to their non-volunteering peers. Now that’s impressive. If you love helping others, consider volunteering your time and mental prowess to teaching children how to read and solve equations. Really, it’s a win-win situation–they get smarter and you keep trucking. Now what can be better than that?

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