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Seniors: Keep Your Friends Close (and Your Memory Closer)

POSTED BY: Florida Hospital

If you’re a senior who takes pride in having a rich patchwork of close friendships, you may be in luck. New research points to a link between positive social connections and sharper memory as we age.

This is among the many reasons that the sixth pillar of Florida Hospital’s CREATION Health model is Interpersonal Relationships – those close connections that improve our well-being and nourish our soul.

A recent study, conducted by Northwestern University, focused on 31 “SuperAgers” – a group of odds-defying individuals over the age of 80 with memory skills equal to the average among 50 to 65-year-olds.

These SuperAgers were compared with a second group of similarly aged individuals with average memory and thinking skills. On a scale that measured whether they have “satisfying, warm, trusting, high-quality relationships” with others, the SuperAgers scored several points higher.

There are a few possible explanations for that result, but the top theory is that maintaining a variety of positive relationships keeps the brain active and engaged – sort of like mental exercise.

Think about it: when we spend time with friends, we’re often engaging in new or stimulating topics of conversation, thinking on our toes and reminiscing about people and places from deep within our memory. The effect can be much like problem-solving games and other mentally challenging activities that are designed to boost neural connections and brain cells.

This study serves to reaffirm existing research that engaging with friends and family members supports better cognitive function over time, and has even been shown to ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

And sharper memory isn’t the only benefit of staying social in your golden years. Positive relationships in seniors can also improve mood, mental health and stress levels – all the more reason to attend the next church social or game night with your best buddies.

Learn more about Florida Hospital’s CREATION Health principles.