The Importance of Social Capital for Seniors
Studies show that money does, in fact, make people happier, but only to a certain degree. In fact, researchers at Princeton have put a price on just how much happiness money can buy or, rather, how much money it takes to buy happiness. People’s happiness tends to increase the more money they have, up until they reach an annual salary of $75,000.
After that, additional income won’t make you any happier and, depending on what it takes to earn that income, could actually make you less happy. The moral? Once our basic needs are met, having more “stuff” doesn’t add anything to our lives – except, of course, more stuff.
It also stands to reason that if your basic needs can be met for much less than that, as with many seniors in senior living communities where they pay one price for all their living expenses and even some medical care, you can be just as happy with less money than that $75,000 benchmark.
The Wisdom in Buying Experiences, Not Things
When you use money to buy experiences such as vacations or special events and create memories with loved ones, you can feel happier. But it’s not the money, or even the event that’s making you happy, as much as it is the people you’re with. This is what psychologists call “social capital,” and it’s a very strong argument for moving to a senior community to enjoy your retirement, filled with people that you can connect with and activities that are fun and fulfilling.
These connections with others are what researchers and psychologists call “social capital,” and it’s been proven to reduce some traits of aging, including cognitive decline and depression, and may even improve a person’s overall health.
The True Value of Social Capital
Bryan James, an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, evaluated 1,100 seniors over a 12-year time period and discovered the rate of cognitive decline was 70 percent lower in people with frequent social activity.
According to an article published at Berkeley’s Greater Good website, even when James and his colleagues statistically controlled for health risk factors like smoking seniors who stay socially active have a 43 percent less rate of disability.
Yvonne Michael of the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia, PA, is another epidemiologist who studies social capital and seniors. She discovered that seniors living in places with high social capital, in areas where you could trust your neighbors and where neighbors helped each other, had greater mobility and improved health. In another study, not limited to seniors, she found that adults in areas of high social capital were more likely to get screened for diseases at the appropriate ages, leading to earlier interventions and improved health.
Can Senior Communities Expand Social Capital?
This research underscores the importance of finding a senior community where you can forge strong social connections, where good health and exercise are a part of the culture, and where you can live well and have your physical and emotional needs met while spending within your means.
Fortunately, senior communities today continue improving their standards and introducing exciting, fulfilling activities that allow seniors to do just that.
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