Research has shown that increased social engagement is good for the health and well-being of seniors and can extend lifespan. But according to research out of The University of Texas at Austin, even chatting with your cashier has its benefits.
The findings published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B, showed that older adults who had more interactions with people considered peripheral social ties — not just family and friends — improved their mood. And, those with a more diverse social network get more physical activity.
“It is difficult to convince people to go to the gym or commit to work out on a regular basis. But they may be willing to reach out to acquaintances, attend an organized group event, or talk to the barista who serves them at their favourite coffee shop,” Karen Fingerman, study author and director of the university’s new Texas Aging & Longevity Center, told UT News.
“Socializing in these contexts also can increase physical activity and diverse behaviours in ways that benefit health without necessarily working up a sweat.”
More than 300 adults over the age of 65 participated in the study. Every three hours, for or about a week, they were asked to report on their day including social encounters. Participants also wore devices to keep track of their physical activity.
When they had a greater variety of social partners, they also had greater variety of activity including leaving the house, walking, talking with others, and shopping. And, in turn, they registered more physical activity and less sedentary pursuits.