When Victor Wasaba retired five years ago, after a 35-year-career as a telephone repairman, he didn’t want to be that person who spent his golden years sitting on the couch and watching TV. The 71-year-old Winnipegger wanted to use his time away from work to be active and, most importantly, socialize with friends.
“Once a month I meet with the guys from my old repair crew, and we go out for breakfast at a local restaurant,” he says. “We catch up, laugh at all the same jokes and really enjoy each other’s company. It’s nice because it always gives me something to look forward to.”
As much as Wasaba enjoys the company, what he may not realize is that his regular breakfasts are likely improving his health. Numerous studies show that an active social life can help people stay heathier and live longer.
Friends with health benefits
One study, conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, concluded that strong social ties in general can be beneficial to both mental and physical health. They found that an active social life can be linked to lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, greater ability to carry out physical tasks, improved happiness and better cognitive functioning.
An active social life can be been linked to lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, greater ability to carry out physical tasks, improved happiness and better cognitive functioning.
Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as increased mortality. One Harvard Medical School study found that a lack of strong social relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%. People who smoke up to 15 cigarettes a day have the same kind of increased risk, according to the study.
Quality over quantity
There are many ways to keep an active social life in retirement, like volunteering or picking up a new sport or activity with your fellow retirees. There are also a number of communities in warm climates, like Florida or Palm Springs, that cater to active retirees.
Of course, it might be easiest to revisit friendships that you let lapse during your working years. That’s what Wasaba’s done. He’s making sure he goes out with the people who already care about him most – and he’s staying healthy in the process.
“It’s important to maintain my friendships. It kind of gives me a sense of belonging,” he says. “I always make a conscious effort to stay in touch with everyone. After every time we meet up, I just feel really good about myself for the rest of the day. I never really thought about why that is, but it’s something I never take for granted.”