One of the most enjoyable ways to look after your brain health in older age is to socialize more. The simple act of meeting with people, talking over the day’s activities, hobbies you’ve got in common or big plans and ideas, will give the brain a work-out in a way that other solo activities can’t.
Research has shown that those who have good social lives have better over-all brain health showing that people who regularly get together with others often perform better on memory tests, and that in the long term those with active social lives are less likely to develop dementia than those who don’t spend time with others.
However, as we grow older it can be easy to lose touch with old friends, and sometimes as mobility gets harder or our families grow up there are fewer opportunities to develop good relationships with new friends.
Here we have looked at five ways you can make sure you build your friendship circle and maintain a healthy social life as you get older.
Keep in touch with old friends
Over the years we meet like-minded people through so many different ways – work, parenting, and shared experiences. As life moves on and our daily activities change it’s all too easy to lose touch with old friends, and years can pass without us seeing people we once shared a great connection with.
Why not make the effort to get back in touch and rekindle old friendships. Arrange a get together somewhere central if there’s a group of you, or even make a weekend of it. Or simply have someone over for dinner.
Once you’ve reconnected try not to let the time go by too long before meeting again by setting a date to meet again.
The memories that such a reunion can inspire can also give your brain a really good workout, not to mention making you feel all sorts of good feelings as happy memories flood back.
Join a club or start a hobby
If you have had a life-long love or interest such as quilting, singing or painting, joining a club where you can meet to do your craft or share your interest should be quite straight forward. The benefits are that you will have the motivation to actually create, which can sometimes wane when you are on your own, you can get tips on how to improve, and you can meet a whole set of like-minded people.
If you’ve always had an interest but never got started now can be the right time to join a club and learn a new skill. There are clubs and societies for people with a huge range of interests such as photography, walking, bird watching or even movie watching. The benefit with learning something new is that it will exercise your brain even more, and friendships can run deeper when you’ve learned something together.
To find clubs near you, try your local college or schools to see if they offer evening classes, or your local nature reserves to find out if there are walks and trips planned there.
A great way to meet people in older life is to volunteer for your chosen local charity. Charities are often crying out for help from an army of volunteers to carry out a range of jobs they cannot afford to pay for. Volunteering roles are often found in thrift shops, in hospitals and schools, fundraising roles, or caring jobs.
By having a regular volunteering role you are bound to meet some fellow people with the same interests and passions as yourself and form a good supportive social network which is good for the soul, heart and mind!
Start a book club
If you’ve got a good group of friends, but struggle to find a time to meet, why not start a book club. Structuring your meet ups around reading a good book will give everyone the motivation to meet regularly as no one will want to miss out. The book meets no doubt will start with a discussion around the book, but will end with good friends discussing all number of topics.
Having a book to discuss means that people can introduce new friends who may not know anyone else, and so widening everyone’s friendship circle.
Scientific research has shown that reading non-fiction is great for the brain with benefits such as increasing empathy, sharpening the memory, exposure to new phrases and words, and increasing brain function, so a book club doesn’t just exercise the social part of the brain, but gives lots of other functions a work out too!
Take up a sport
As with taking up a hobby, starting a sport is also a great way of getting to know other people and to feel part of a team. Physical exercise is well known to be good for us, but often over-looked is the social and emotional benefit of sports, and team sports in particular.
If you are learning a new sport then the brain gets active trying to remember rules, and adding up scores as well as developing better hand-eye coordination.
If sport isn’t your thing, there are plenty of activities you may not consider to be sports, which have the same effect, bowling, or darts, encourage a good team bond in a non-sporty environment.