Oftentimes, we overlook the importance of social engagement in our lives. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sitting on your couch all day, watching Netflix, instead of trying to make time for family or friends. However, studies consistently show that social engagement has profound impacts on health—mental, physical, and cognitive.
Maintaining social engagement has been linked to better self-esteem, improved physical health, keeping the brain sharp, and more. Sustaining relationships is even proven to have positive effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Here’s the problem: it’s not just that keeping an active social life has potential benefits. It’s also that not staying active socially can have negative health implications. The clearest connection is to mortality—within older adults, those without social engagement actually have a higher likelihood of death. People with strong social ties have a 50% increase in the likelihood of survival. For perspective, that’s comparable to the effect of not smoking.
Who’s Really at Risk?
More than any other group, older adults are vulnerable to a lack of social engagement. Up to 1 in 3 older adults live alone, and there are three primary factors that make this group especially at-risk:
Because of the limited mobility of many older adults, it can be tricky to maintain meaningful connections
Loss of some abilities like hearing and sight make it harder for older adults to socialize
Growing old comes with some normal cognitive impairments, such as attention and memory
For older adults, the health risks of social disconnectedness can also include the potential onset of dementia. While there's currently no proven way to prevent dementia, by finding ways to help older adults be more social, despite these challenges, we could begin to mitigate their social isolation.
That’s Where We Can Help
OneClick.chat, our web-based video chat platform, has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging to determine how we can use video chat to make connection and engagement more accessible among older adults. With our mission being to help communities connect more meaningfully through technology, we are excited to be a part of this endeavor and help move this important research forward.