Social life represents an essential part of the individual. It constitutes the foundation of its social structure and represents the personal relationships that everyone maintains. It allows active connections to be integrated into society. This dynamic relationship is manifested through the different forms of coexistence that the subject carries out with the environment, which involves some degree of reciprocity and bidirectionality between individuals.
In old age, as in any other stage of life, individuals have the exact psychological and social needs to stay active with and for society. A busy social life establishes the primordial function of socially integrating the individual through relationships with others. Therefore, its richness gives rise to a more excellent adaptation of the older adult to its social dimension.
Well-being in older adults can vary depending on the integration and social belonging that the individual maintains. A situation is contrary to isolation and loneliness. Therefore, a person with a socially active life will preserve the feeling of belonging and continuity within their social group, which will affect their well-being and overall well-being.
Around the age of 65, older adults gradually reduce their social life in number and intensity concerning the previous period of life, since not only does the substitution of some roles for others take place, but in aging, they also tend to abandon or lose certain roles, which cause a decrease in both coexistence and participation in society.
The importance of reducing the social life of older adults in society is that isolation and loneliness are significant problems that affect individuals and their well-being. The concept of "personal well-being" has been studied from different perspectives and with different methodologies. Still, most of the studies carried out have been in an open population, so well-being, specifically in older adults, has been little studied.
Some benefits of an active social life
The activity theory of aging suggests that participation in meaningful social activities is essential in promoting health and predicting personal well-being in older adults. Various investigations from this perspective suggest that social activities offer innumerable physical, psychological, and social benefits. Among them are:
Better mental and physical health
It has been observed that older adults who participate in activities such as sports, art, culture, tourism, and recreation have better elements to deal with situations that otherwise would make them sick or fall into depression. That is, meaningful social activity can directly contribute to health maintenance and disease prevention. Older adults who have extensive social relationships have been found to have a lower risk of dying than older people who live in isolation or have few social contacts.
Benefits to avoid diseases
It has been shown that socialization in the elderly has favorable effects on pathologies such as joint pain, control of chronic diseases, arterial hypertension, diabetes, and the prevention of pathologies in the psychosocial sphere such as depression, anxiety, or worsening of the same.
Increased perception of happiness
Different studies maintain that older people, like young adults, have the same psychological and social needs to stay active. Only when the individual performs an activity feels happy, satisfied, and adjusted. Usually, people with more emotional, family, and social ties have more positive feelings and perceive their life with greater happiness, producing a positive relationship between the social activity they develop and their joy. On the contrary, the older adults who maintained fewer contacts and social activities are the people who showed less happiness in general.
Increased life expectancy
According to some studies, older people who have little or no social contact are more likely to die in the short term. On the contrary, people who maintain an active social life have a longer life expectancy.
Reduces the feeling of loneliness
Over the years, many older adults have the feeling of loneliness. And it is that although they maintain a united family, the children and grandchildren lead their lives, and they feel alienated, especially after widowhood. That is why the importance of the company in the elderly is essential so that they do not feel alone.
Making friends and promoting socialization diminishes this feeling, and they create their world, feeling much more independent from the visits of their loved ones. By forging interpersonal relationships with other older adults, they share experiences and realize that they are not the only ones living in this stage.
Increased perception of well-being
Several studies affirm that social activities are positively and significantly associated with personal well-being, probably mediated by their effect on self-esteem and self-concept. Productive activities also support the perception of usefulness and competence.
Social activities enhance the sense and meaning of the value of one's life by increasing the perception of competence and aptitude in activities of daily living, improving mood, and generating positive emotions and distraction from their problems. Therefore, the personal well-being of the older adult, among other things, is the result of maintaining social activities at this stage. Emotional well-being is the main criterion of successful aging.
Socializing, playing board games, advising friends, and giving their opinions on different topics make them keep their minds active. Therefore, they feel part of society. They feel functional, independent, autonomous, and much more empowered. This socialization makes them feel important and thus improves their mood daily.
How to promote socialization?
As we have seen, socialization is vital in caring for the elderly. For this reason, it is essential to encourage those activities that promote it since these are going to be necessary for the active aging process. If we think of our parents or grandparents, we must help them and give them the tools not to isolate themselves.
In this sense, worrying about organizing coexistence activities and developing actions based on the interaction between older people who share similar interests, tastes, and preferences for their free time. We must try to generate both new ties and strengthen old ones, to fulfill the premise with which we all dream of "being friends until grandparents." In the family environment, learn to listen to them, give them the space to give their opinion, and feel valued for their experience and wisdom.
The third age is another stage of human development in which changes must be faced physically, socially, and emotionally. We can mention family and social roles, free time, and decreased physical capacities among the changes. These may have implications for older adults' motivation and quality of life.
Aging can be positive and healthy as long as the socialization and recreation needs of the older adult are channeled with activities that provide the conditions to develop in a stimulating environment in which learning experiences and healthy lifestyles are favored.