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Older adults getting together and having a good time

The Importance of a Healthy Social Life

Helping Older Adults Avoid Loneliness
Revera’s Six Dimensions of Wellness is a holistic approach to health and wellness that includes: physical, social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and community engagement. Over the coming weeks, we will delve into each dimension in closer detail.

At 93-years-old, Corrie Evans is a bit of a social butterfly. A resident at Revera’s Port Perry Villa, Evans served as the Vice President of the Resident Council and involves herself in ensuring there’s an active social schedule for everyone at the residence.

“I’ve met a lot of nice people and have made good friends,” says Evans. However, the self-described people person admits to experiencing loneliness at times.
“When you’re happy and your mind is healthy and your body is healthy it all goes together.”
Loneliness is an issue for all people with studies showing that one in five Canadians experience some degree of social isolation. It’s a problem that hits older Canadians particularly hard.

At Port Perry Villa, Kim Owen works with residents to overcome feelings of loneliness. As the Director of Recreation, she oversees programming to promote a healthy social life, one of the Six Dimensions of Wellness.

Owen says that involving the residents in the social planning, as well as the event itself, makes it more fun for everyone. This approach means that residents are getting the kinds of events they want. “We give the residents ownership of the planning of social events and it goes a long, long way.”

The calendar at the residence is packed full. For Evans, who worked as a cook and maid before staying home to raise her family, her favourite events include singing, playing cards, social hours and taking in movies. The passing of time has not dampened her passions as these programs are fond reflections of her favourite pastimes such as dancing, performing in choirs and going to the cinema.

The impact of loneliness has serious health effects. A 2015 study out of Brigham Young University found it to be as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In contrast, the study discovered that increased social connection is linked to a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of an early death.

Governments are taking notice too. In Ontario, the province has invested $155 million to take on social isolation among older adults. The current UK government even appointed a minister for loneliness.

Owen says having a healthy social life goes part and parcel with the other aspects of the Six Dimensions of Wellness. “When you’re happy and your mind is healthy and your body is healthy it all goes together.”

Evans agrees an active social life is an important part of healthy aging declaring, “it keeps you alive!”