It is very important to have a social support system of friends and family as we age. The lack of social ties can make elderly people more susceptible to disease, illness and ultimately death. According to the research in the American Journal of Epidemiology, social ties significantly affect the mortality rate of the elderly. Keeping active in the community, a church or another group helps the elderly enjoy retirement and avoid social isolation.
Many sports are strenuous and cannot easily be done into old age, like skiing or football. Golf is less strenuous than other sports and allows senior citizens to keep active and to play in a group. Golf is a sport that involves seniors at the professional level, as in the PGA. Before beginning to play golf, consult your physician.
Church or Temple Membership
Membership in a church or temple creates social ties to the community for seniors. Research in the American Journal of Epidemiology has shown that participation in a church group significantly lowers mortality for the elderly. Regardless of religion, belonging to a group alleviates isolation for the elderly, at a time in their lives during which they may be widowed or have lost close friends and family.
The popular hobby of collecting can also be a social activity for seniors. Serious collectors will collect anything from pins to old farm tractors. Most collectors enjoy sharing their collections with others. Collections can be a source of personal pride as well as a social event for some collectors. Collectors meet at conventions to socialize about their particular collection interests.
Hobbies of all kinds, including physical hobbies like tennis or yoga, can be a source of social interaction for seniors. Intellectual hobbies include playing chess or participation in book clubs. Games like bridge or bingo also provide an opportunity for the elderly to socialize regularly.
Tai chi is a form of martial art that originated in China and utilizes the body's natural energy (chi). Tai chi has successfully helped many seniors increase their overall feelings of "well-being." According to the Mayo Clinic, the consistent practice of "tai chi may offer numerous benefits beyond stress reduction, including anxiety and depression reduction, gaining balance, flexibility and strength, a decrease in sleeping problems, blood pressure, chronic pain, and a decrease in falling among the elderly." The Mayo Clinic also reports that tai chi improves "energy, endurance and agility" as well as "improving cardiovascular fitness in older adults." Most major cities have tai chi classes, which are usually held outside at a beach or park. See the "Resources" section for more information. The Mayo Clinic warns that "although tai chi is generally safe, consider talking with your doctor before starting a new program. This is particularly important if you have any problems with your joints, spine or heart, if you are pregnant, if you have any fractures, or if you have severe osteoporosis."
Those who like to knit or just want to learn can join a meeting of local knitters. See the "Resources" section for a link to find or start a knitting group in your area. Knitting is relaxing and knitting meetings are a way for many seniors to talk to peers and develop lasting friendships.
Professional Sporting Events
Attending sporting events can alleviate loneliness in many seniors and create a social support system if they frequently attend. Fans in sports arenas all over the U.S. develop a camaraderie by buying season tickets and sitting in the same seats each season. They cheer and mourn together over the team's victories and losses.