Here’s a compelling argument for those attempting to sell reluctant parents on the vicissitudes of senior living communities:  the social contacts your loved ones make may help them stay mentally sharp as they continue to age.

Cambridge Realty Capital Companies Chairman Jeffrey A. Davis says a report co-sponsored by AARP and the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) finds that it’s not uncommon for social networks to shrink in size as we get older.   The report quotes Dr. Marilyn Albert, professor of neurology and director of cognitive neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Chair of the GCBH.

“The report provides many helpful suggestions about the things seniors can do to improve the quality of their relationships with family and friends, which may be beneficial in maintaining mental abilities,” she said.

Mr. Davis said the report discusses the social benefits of having pets, how age-friendly communities boost social ties, how close relationships benefit both physical and mental health, and how social media – including Facebook and Skype – helps older adults maintain social connections.

In related news, a separate AARP survey found nearly four in 10 adults aged 40 and older say they lack social connections.  Those people also reported worse brain health.

Sarah Lock, an AARP senior vice president and GCBH’s executive director, says both organizations recognize that loneliness and isolation can increase physical health risks for older people.  The GCBH’s consensus that those who are socially engaged have a lower risk for cognitive (mental) decline shows us just how important social connections are to brain health,” she said.

Mr. Davis says the optics for senior care facilities have changed dramatically in recent decades.

“A great deal of emphasis is now being focused on social programs and activities that are designed to stimulate and enhance both mind and spirit,” he added.

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