Humans are born social creatures, and the need for meaningful relationships doesn't diminish with age. If older adults give the opposite impression, it may be because they have increasingly fewer people to relate to as they age. Friends die. Family members move away. Physical and mental impairment can make even short visits an ordeal. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, one in three people in their 60s are chronically lonely, a condition associated with a host of ills from high blood pressure to Alzheimer's disease. Feelings of loneliness do drop with each decade aged afterward -- partially because people's overall satisfaction with their lives, including their relationships, tends to rise after age 50 [source: Edmonson].
Maintaining social relationships reaps numerous rewards. The intellectual challenge of interacting with others has been shown to help maintain information-processing skills, like perceiving spatial relationships between objects [source: HealthDay News]. Moreover, the more people whom an older adult can rely on in times of trouble, and the more varied these relationships, the less stress there will be in that person's life [source: Powell].
But social hour among older adults isn't just coffee klatches and bingo, as our next point explains.