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Why is Social Engagement important to Parkinson's?

The lack of connection with others and a diminishing social life can cause an increase of depression as well as a multitude of other health problems. Depression and isolation in seniors can even cause sickness, high blood pressure and an increased risk for early death. However, those who maintain an active and independent lifestyle gain benefits that boost their physical health, emotional well-being, and their ability to remain independent longer.

So, is there a secret to remaining happy and independent while aging or living with Parkinson's? While we do not have control over our diagnosis or aging, we do have a say in how they live their lives. Choosing to remain socially active, engaged, and connecting with others can significantly benefit us in several ways. Becoming involved in social activities, socializing with friends and family, and trying new things cannot only make our lives more interesting, it can also help keep many negative effects of progression or aging away.

In numerous articles on socializing and engagement, AARP states that social interaction can affect our psychological, physical and cognitive health in several ways.

  • Psychological Health: Those of us who are socially engaged benefit from a bigger sense of belonging and higher self-esteem levels. When we connect with those who are passionate about the same things, it forms lasting bonds and confidence. Those who connect and regularly socialize are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. They are also more likely to get help if they are experiencing mental health problems.

  • Physical Health: Those who exercise and participate in group classes are less likely to develop health problems, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. Those who are socially isolated can benefit from these group exercise programs, as the opportunity to socialize promotes an active and healthier lifestyle. Because those who are isolated are more likely to skip meals, a result of eating alone, getting out and socializing can lead to sharing meals with new friends and connecting.

  • Cognitive Health: According to the article by AARP, social interaction can keep Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia away. Whenever we have even the most basic exchange, we have to think about how to respond, and that stimulates the brain. it is shown that those with a large social group are less likely to develop dementia and are more likely to participate in physical activities, which can also cut the risk of dementia.

With these benefits, it is important to make social engagement just as much a priority as anything else to live an independent lifestyle filled with happiness and connection, not isolation and depression. Staying socially connected can be achieved through many different mediums.

Tips for Staying Socially Engaged

So, what can you do to avoid the temptation to isolate and get reconnected to the world around you?

  • Join a club: Think of some things that interest you or a loved one. If you or a loved one is an avid reader, find a book club to join. If gardening or woodworking are hobbies, find clubs for them. By getting together with those who share the same interests, you are likely to cultivate friendships.

  • Play word or mind games. By playing intellectually stimulating games with others, you can keep your mind active while remaining socially connected to others. Try playing games such as chess or checkers. Participate in a bridge club or poker.

  • Volunteer or Find a Part-Time Job: If there are a limited number of clubs you would like to join, try volunteering for an organization that means something to you. If you love pets, volunteer at a shelter. If you care a lot about children's literacy, tutor children in reading. Giving back and keeping involved is a very important part of engagement.

  • Get involved in a church group: If religion is an important part of who you are, get involved. Attend services and socials. Try to meet with church members to have lunch or join a bible study.

  • Visit friends and family often: Maintaining your close personal relationships is one of the best things you can do to remain socially engaged, according to Everyday Health. Set times to do things with friends and family. Make a tradition out of Sunday brunch with your girlfriends. Play poker or golf with the guys. Make a ritual out of visiting friends and family as often as you can and then continue to do so with new friends you make from the increased socializing you are doing.

In addition to staying fit through exercise, it is just as important to stay socially engaged - whether you can still get out or stuck at home. While church may be an excellent option for you to connect with your  friends, others may find a fun community at their local Senior Centers.

Each Senior Center generally provides a monthly calendar of activities. These activities can include fitness classes, art classes, dancing, singing and day trips, pickle ball tournaments, cards, and puzzles - you can even host your own activity to meet new friends. There is generally something for everyone and minimal cost associated with the activities. Also, lunch is served at some locations.

For those that do not feel comfortable getting outside of the home, there is a virtual community that offers home and online activities that helps build community through conversations, games, and education. Registration is completely free and easy. You can register online by contacting 1.877.797.7299 or

Disclaimer: The information contained in these Frequently Asked Questions have been sourced by reliable, research-based publications. It is to your discretion whether or not to incorporate the education and awareness as guidance into your wellness journey with Parkinson's. The Parkinson Association of Alabama cannot be held liable for the solutions you try, and you should always consult with medical experts before trying anything new or incorporating new matters into your overall wellness plan.

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