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Enjoy your friends and live longer

When Victor Wasaba retired five years ago he didn’t want to spend his golden years sitting on the couch 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,” he says. “We catch up, laugh at all the same jokes and really enjoy each other’s company. It’s nice because it gives me something to look forward to.”

What Wasaba 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 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 with 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. Communities in warm climates, like Florida or Palm Springs, cater to active retirees.  

One approach is to revisit friendships that lapsed during your working years. That’s what Wasaba’s done. “It gives me a sense of belonging,” he says. “I always make a conscious effort to stay in touch with everyone. After we meet up, I feel really good about myself for the rest of the day.” And he’s staying healthy in the process.

January 13, 2017

This column, published by Investors Group Financial Services Inc. (in Québec – a Financial Services Firm), and Investors Group Securities Inc. (in Québec, a firm in Financial Planning) presents general information only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell investments. Contact your own advisor for specific advice about your circumstances. For more information on this topic please contact an Investors Group Consultant.