In a time when we're discovering the true impact loneliness and social separation can have on our health, Acts Retirement Communities are providing the services and opportunities we've long known to be beneficial.
The Surgeon General's Report
On May 3, 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory which addressed an epidemic of loneliness and isolation, along with six pillars on how to address the epidemic. In the report, titled "Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation," it stated that lack of connection can increase the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
The report found that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, about half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. The physical consequences are eye-opening, including 29% increased risk of heart disease, 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults.
"Social connection reduces the risk of premature mortality," says the report. "It can predict better physical and mental health outcomes and ease stress."
The facts show that across age groups, people are simply spending less time with each other in person than two decades ago. While younger generations are replacing in-person relationships with social media, older adults are often isolating themselves due to anxiety over world topics, disconnections with family, as well as a lack of social infrastructure in local communities.
6 Pillars to Advance Social Connection
The Surgeon General provides a framework for a new national strategy to combat the epidemic. It bases this strategy on six foundational pillars:
- Strengthening social infrastructure, which includes things like parks and libraries as well as public programs.
- Enacting pro-connection public policies at every level of government.
- Mobilizing the health sector to address the medical needs that stem from loneliness.
- Reforming digital environments to "critically evaluate our relationship with technology."
- Deepening our knowledge through more robust research into the issue.
- Cultivating a culture of connection.
It's the third and sixth pillars in which Acts and its communities shine as a solution for many older adults who may be battling loneliness and isolation as they age.
The Importance of Socialization
As the Surgeon General's report indicates, social connection is vital to community health and success. This premise has been included in the Acts Signature Experience mission for decades, offering multitudes of ways for community residents to interact, learn from one another, and develop long-lasting relationships.
According to Melanie Donathan, Acts Mental Health Clinician, the benefits of social connection really start in the way our bodies react to such stimuli.
"When we socialize with others, our bodies release endorphins – otherwise known as the happy hormone," Mrs. Donathan said. "This is the reason why socializing helps decrease the chances of many physical and emotional ailments."
She adds that it's also beneficial to build strong relationships with our peers. More than engaging in topical conversation, getting to really know our peers and share vulnerabilities can help build a support system, increase intimate interactions and decrease feelings of stress.
"Taking part in a fun activity with peers also helps to build strong relationships," Mrs. Donathan said. "Nothing brings people together more than laughing and having fun with them!"
This is why Acts and its communities have been creating these types of opportunities for a long time.
Cultivating the Right Values
In "Cultivate a Culture of Connection," the Surgeon General says "a culture of connection is vital to creating changes needed in society." In part, it encourages individuals and organizations to "cultivate values of kindness, respect, service, and commitment to one another."
For more than 50 years, Acts and its retirement living campuses have been committed to providing security and peace of mind to older adults. Acts is a pre-eminent provider of retirement-life services, offering an atmosphere of Loving-Kindness, dignity, sensitivity, honesty and respect, without prejudice or preference.
Through its many activity offerings, Acts cultivates an environment to pursue your passions, pastimes and hobbies. From a staffing perspective, Acts invests in life engagement, fitness, and even Chaplain team members who are charged with fostering community relationships and activity.
Our residents' time is freed to experience these offerings with our maintenance-free retirement living. Worries about home upkeep, lawncare, appliance maintenance and repair are things of the past, because it's all done by the community.
Opportunities for Socialization
So, what can you do in an Acts community? With so many options to enrich the body, mind, and spirit, you'd be hard-pressed to find a day in our communities without something to do or people to engage with.
Many fitness activities and amenities are available on campuses to help keep our residents active and fit. This includes fitness centers, walking paths, recreation areas, and swimming pools in many communities. We also feature full-time fitness trainers who are able to provide older adults with solid direction in their fitness goals. These fitness trainers also often hold group classes with those who share your enthusiasm to stay active – an easy way to find a walking buddy or pickleball partner.
Our communities also hold many educational courses, such as book clubs, religious studies and art classes. These lifelong learning opportunities are scheduled by activities directors who enjoy keeping community members active and bringing people together.
When you live in an Acts community, the truth is, every day is like a vacation. But we also make actual travel and vacations much more carefree by helping to plan them for you. All of our communities plan day and overnight excursions to various places, removing the stress as you come along for the ride!
Volunteering is also very popular in our communities, as residents of Acts always love to give back. There are many groups within our communities that support local charitable organizations, and even the Acts Legacy Foundation.
Want to learn more about the benefits of socialization in terms of physical health and cognitive benefits? Read The Importance of Socializing for Seniors.
You can also learn about all 26 Acts campuses available in nine states along the East Coast.