At any age, loneliness is a curse. And for older people, a lack of a social life can even be hazardous to their health. People who don't get out much often succumb to depression, a condition that in turn makes them vulnerable to many illnesses, including heart disease, alcoholism, diabetes and, perhaps, cancer.

But just as loneliness can destroy a person's life, socializing can save it. In a 13-year study published in 1999 of almost 3,000 senior citizens, Harvard researchers found that social activities such as playing bingo or attending church were as important to survival as regular exercise. That's right: When it comes to adding years to one's life, looking for bingo's O-62 is right up there with jogging.

Seniors get more out of socializing than just a few extra years of life. Friendships and activities reduce stress, help people feel worthy and needed, and stimulate the mind. According to a recent report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, strong social contacts offer powerful protection against the mental declines that often go along with aging. And having strong friendships can also add years to ones life. A Spanish study published in the journal BMC Geriatrics in 2007 found that having a confidant was linked to a 25 percent less risk of dying prematurely than an elderly person without a strong friendship.

At each of our communities, we emphasize socializing by providing a robust calendar of activities and opportunities for seniors to mingle. Our Director of Resident Life at each community designs activities based on the interests of the residents. Those seniors living in Memory Care Communities have structured activities specially designed for those with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia.

Socialization programs

Sample of Activities

9:00 am - Swimming
9:00 am - Coffee/Pastries
9:30 am - Walmart Trip
10:30 am - Billiards
1:30 pm - Wii Bowling
2:30 pm - Canasta
3:00 pm - Craft Club
6:30 pm - Rummy

9:00 am - Atlantic City Trip
9:30 am - Tai Chi
10:30 am - Computer Class
11:00 - Book Club
1:00 pm - Dominoes
2:00 pm - Movie Matinee
3:30 pm - Women's Devotions
6:30 pm - Bridge

9:30 am - Exercise w/ Weights
10:00 am - Stories & Journals
10:00 am - Grocery Store Trip
10:45 am - Scattergories
12:30 pm - Trip to Museum
2:00 pm - Scrapbooking
3:00 pm - Happy Hour
6:30 pm - Poker