Part of the beauty and the pain of life is the constant coming and going of friends and social connections. However, as we age, it oftentimes seems as if there is more of the “going” than the “coming”. Friends move away, to be closer to children or grandchildren or to an easier living situation, and slowly it seems that your social circles dwindle and the casual and fun dinners, events and parties you attend are less frequent. Although you are independent and enjoy your own space, loneliness can creep up into your generally wonderful life. Although loneliness often labels itself as a merely painful inconvenience, studies have actually shown that loneliness, especially later in life, can in fact be damaging to health. These important social connections, called “social capital”, are the focus of some researchers.
Studying the effect of social interaction on cognitive decline, epidemiologist Bryan James at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center found that over a 12 year study of over a thousand adults, the people with regular social interaction had as much as 70 percent less cognitive decline than those without! Another study, also by Bryan James, measured the connections between social interaction and the ability to care for oneself. In the end, he found that those with high social interactions reasonably had 43% less disability than those with low amounts of social interaction. This suggest that they may live independently longer while maintaining their health.
A researcher from Drexel University, Yvonne Michael, specifically studies social capital in neighborhoods and the effect it has on the residents there. Here are an example of some of the questions he uses in a survey to identify the level of social capital.
- Are my neighbors willing to help each other with routine maintenance?
- Can I trust my neighbors?
- In case of emergency, would my neighbors be available to help me out?
- How often do I see, talk to, or visit with my neighbors?
These simple questions may help you to improve your health and prolong your independence. If you decide it may be time to start seeking out a community with more social capital while also seeking to maintain your independence, University Village can help! Our warm, friendly community of people in our Independent Living Apartments and in our Cottage Community will welcome you with open arms. Call our staff or contact us today to see how University Village’s community can fit your independent lifestyle.