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Staying Social
How a facility's social offerings impact residents' well-being


June 2016

Bringing new meaning to the term "party hardy," recent studies have shown that individuals with strong social connections have a higher quality of life and live longer. The reports show that love, encouragement, support, understanding and personal connections help increase feelings of well-being and of people being part of something beyond themselves ó both of which are key components to a personís mental health and easy to lose later in life.

At St. Johnís on the Lake on Milwaukeeís East Side, Director of Marketing Lucia Klebar says research has shown that socialization is the No. 1 factor in helping older adults remain mentally and emotionally healthy. "For this reason, we have adopted a model called Lifestreams, (which) we use to coordinate events and activities that address six dimensions of wellness: social, intellectual, emotional, vocational, physical and spiritual wellness," explains Klebar. "Our residents can participate in more than 200 events per month, all of which have crossover benefits between the six targeted aspects of wellness."

Arguably the most important dimension, social wellness includes creating and maintaining healthy relationships with others. The loss of close friends and family members is inevitable as we age, but continuing to engage in social interactions remains imperative, as researchers consistently present findings on how social isolation can adversely affect seniorsí health. A 2012 study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences even found that both social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality in adults aged 52 and older.

Marlene Heller, director of marketing and communications at the Jewish Home and Care Center, agrees that people who are isolated age faster. The key is to keep them active, involved in things they enjoy, and in contact with other residents. "We have found that people who socialize, who have social groups and participate in social activities on a regular basis, are keeping their brains younger, and in turn, aging better," says Heller. "When residents arrive, we first take time to learn their life stories. What they did in life, what kind of hobbies and interests they have. People donít throw all that away just because they are aging. If you are someone who is active, you want to continue being active. If you are a lifelong learner, letís continue to learn with educational lectures or study material. If you are a crafter, we will make sure you always have a craft project with others who like to do the same thing. People who do things together form friendships and social relationships, and that is what keeps them looking forward to the next day. Experts on aging know that many benefits, including lessening the risk of Alzheimerís disease, promoting heart health and minimizing the effects of stress and depression, are the results of socialization."

So party hardy, as it seems socialization is the key to happy aging. "We have seen people make new best friends at 70 or 80, or even fall in love again," says Klebar. And nothing keeps you younger than that, does it? m



This story ran in the June 2016 issue of: