Let's talk about the importance of keeping ourselves connected! Not everyone looks forward to those family get-togethers. However, staying connected to friends and family does tend to bring joy and a sense of belonging. But did you know your social life might also be your brain's best defence against dementia?

Recent research suggests a strong link between social engagement and a reduced risk of dementia. Studies have shown that people with active social lives tend to develop dementia later in life or avoid it altogether. This isn't just about living with family – it's about quality interactions and meaningful connections.

So how does socialising benefit your brain? Here are some theories:

Cognitive exercise: Social interaction keeps your brain on its toes. Conversations challenge you to think quickly, listen actively, and express yourself clearly. This mental workout may help build cognitive reserve, the brain's ability to withstand damage.

Stress slayer: Social connections can be a buffer against stress, a known risk factor for cognitive decline. Spending time with people you connect with can lower stress hormones and improve mood, promoting overall brain health.

Lifelong learning: Social activities often involve learning new things, whether it's discussing a book club pick or picking up a new hobby with friends. This constant learning stimulates the brain and helps create new neural pathways, keeping your mind sharp and resilient.

The good news: it's never too late to reap the benefits of socialising! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Join a club: Book clubs, walking groups, church groups, volunteer organisations like Rotary or Lions.

Exercise with friends: A great way to strengthen both your body and mind at the same time - go for a walk, a run or a bike ride with friends.

Volunteer: There are hundreds of opportunities to volunteer in the local area. Here in Farnham we even have opportunities with Right at Home’s new befriending service. (search Befriending Farnham)

Reconnect with old friends: Pick up the phone, write a letter, or organise a reunion.

Embrace technology: Video calls and social media can help you stay connected with loved ones who live far away.

Simply be neighbourly: Strike up a conversation with someone new at the park or supermarket. Every interaction counts!

Remember, a strong social network is an investment in your overall well-being. So get out there, connect with others, and keep your brain active and resilient. 

By Alastair Shanks

Owner, Right at Home and Dementia Friends Champion