ALLENTOWN, Pa. - New research shows social interaction may be just as important as exercise for senior citizens.
The studies show huge benefits when seniors are connected to other people and conversely, big problems when they're isolated.
For seniors like 90-year-old Peggy Yost of Allentown, interacting with other people is life changing. She is active in the senior community in Allentown.
"This has kept me talking to people. I think it's great for people who have lost their husbands, especially if they had a happy marriage and I did," says Peggy.
Peggy knows what she's talking about.
Studies show socialization is the key to a long life, happiness and even less illnesses.
Studies show socialization dramatically reduces depression, blood pressure and even symptoms of dementia.
Another study that appeared in The American Journal of Public Health demonstrated that seniors aged 50 to 60 who were socially active had slower rates of declining memory.
Rick Daugherty is executive director of the former Lehigh County Senior Center in Allentown, now called Lehigh Valley Active Life.
"Unless you actively seek to be involved with other people, you're very likely to find yourself isolated. And then your risk of poor health, of disease, of death even increases dramatically," says Daughtery.
He says places like the former senior center are even more important today as more people are isolated.
Sally Saylor has been nutrition coordinator for 18 years and she has seen a lot of lonely people. She says when people are isolated, it changes them.
"I think it takes away their idea if they're worth anything, if they can contribute to something other than their own basic needs," she says.
Daugherty says seniors need to seek out opportunities to connect with others.
"You need to purposefully get connected. You need to make an effort to get out of your house, out of your apartment."
Experts say even small interactions like a trip to the beauty salon can have a positive impact on a senior's mood.
How can seniors stay connected?
-visit senior centers
-move to retirement communities
-stay connected with family and friends
-get a pet
-learn new skills, like the internet
Allentown, PA 18102