The Link Between Social Interaction and Mental Stimulation
Few would argue that social interactions for people in the later years of life is hugely beneficial. Spending time with friends and family, having hobbies and stimulating the mind are widely considered to be beneficial in extending quality of life. What might not be so obvious, however, is the trickle-down effect that this has on our elderly population. This is something that Signature understands and aims for.
A social lifestyle and social interactions carry a range of wider health benefits such as the delaying or preventing of certain diseases, improvement of the immune and circulatory system and more efficient recovery from small illness or injury. At a time of life when the body may recover more slowly and react more slowly putting yourself or a loved one into the best environment possible to continue to thrive becomes hugely important to the body and mind, something that Signature is leading in. The two are connected after all and keeping both mind and body healthy is beneficial in combination and enjoying an active lifestyle. A healthy and varied diet goes without saying.
More studies on the psychological side of getting older have emerged in the last few decades as well. Well-known later life conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, which affect the brain, have been a focal point and it is now widely believed that lifestyle plays a huge part in their onset, the speed of deterioration and the symptoms that individuals may face. Dementia particularly, which affects the neurons of the brain and, in turn, someone’s ability to remember, process and use information, has been linked to lifestyle quite substantially.
So what sort of social interactions and exercises are best, and why? Well, recommendations from the NHS are to split these up into bite-size and diverse sessions throughout the course of a week or a month. At any age, exercise in short bursts often is considered excellent for your health. Walks of 15 to 20 minutes twice a day are a great way start. Walking clubs are available nation wide and gardening, gentle cycling and more obscure activities like walking football all provide the body with stimulus mentally and physically and don’t need to be strenuous.
Promoting Social Interaction in Care Homes
When asked if it is noticeable in elderly patients if they lead a healthy and active lifestyle, Sam, a Care and Rehabilitation Support Worker at Colchester General Hospital in Essex said; “From my experience, being able to interact with patients improves their mood and building a rapport will also help make their stay easier. Some patients are well supported with family and friends and already have high levels of social interaction. It’s those that don’t have that support that benefit the most from social interaction during care”
“I feel like many elderly people who are isolated and lacking in social interaction are much more likely to suffer from depression or low mood. Elderly patients can decline physically if their mental wellbeing is not adequate. It will increase their mood, reducing time of recovery due to positive thinking and motivation. Patients have increased appetite and can speed up the time they spend in hospital to begin with.” .
In addition to this, many care homes and sheltered housing societies are beginning to go the extra mile in providing residents as many opportunities as possible to socialize through activities, some even providing qualifications and courses in different disciplines of interest to residents, all designed to get the cogs turning and neurons firing.
At Signature Care Homes, each of our homes has teams of staff dedicated to activity programs, dining and nutrition and wellbeing beyond simple care for a resident. A full weekly schedule is laid out for residents to take part in. Physical activities as well as those for the mind are on the cards including outings, games afternoons, gardening, Pilates, quizzes, Table Tennis, choirs and film evenings.
Working on the principle that Signature is about living as well as care for people in their later years, a vibrant social environment is how we make this happen.
By Guy Bezant, Signature Content Contributor
Find out more about our extensive activities programs here.