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More Reason to Connect

August 5, 2009

Z-West_danceNot only is it fun to spend time shopping with friends or visiting with loved ones—researchers now know that time can also help keep your brain healthy as you age.

Some research indicates that people who have good social networks live longer. They also are physically healthier than people who are socially isolated. In fact, experts say that how socially connected a person tends to be is one of the most important ways of predicting his or her health and independence in later years.
Maintaining supportive relationships is an important element of effective aging. The more contact we have with others as we age, the better we may be at retaining mental sharpness.

A large study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who engaged in leisure activities such as learning to play a musical instrument or dancing were less likely to develop dementia.
Dancing may be especially beneficial to the brain because it combines physical activity with social interaction, and often involves a cognitive challenge in learning dance steps.

“There’s a lot of evidence that other people are the most unpredictable things you can encounter,” says Lawrence Katz. “So activities that have you engaging with other human beings are a fantastic form of brain exercise.”
Other studies suggest that people with the most limited social connections are twice as likely to die over a given period as those with the widest social networks. Many experts believe that social isolation may create a chronically stressful condition that accelerates aging.

This information is especially important to older people, who may be more likely to lead solitary lives—especially if family and friends have moved away or died. Of course, combating loneliness requires time and energy, both in establishing new relationships and in deepening existing ones. But the benefits are well worth the effort.

Stop back tomorrow for Tips on Staying Social!

Courtesy of aarp.com
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