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Importance of remaining socially active

Woman in red sweater sharing quality time with her family

It has been long known that a simple cup of tea possesses magic powers capable of fixing just about anything.

Winston Churchill is rumoured to have said tea was as important to the Second World War effort as bullets, and George Orwell once wrote ‘Tea is one of the mainstays of civilisation in this country’.

Tea was used as medicine long before becoming a beverage. Research suggests tea contains powerful antioxidants which can protect drinkers against heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

According to the Tea Association of the USA (who knew there was such an organisation?) around half the US population drink tea each day. In the UK, that figure is as astounding 84 percent.

In Australia, around 38 per cent of the population drink tea however that figure increases to 67 per cent for those aged over 70.

Why all the fuss about tea drinking? Kevin and Joan Milne recently attended the opening of a Memory Café in Innaloo. Joan approached her local council with the idea after attending a Memory Café in Booragoon with her husband Kevin, who has dementia.

The Innaloo initiative is one of several to get off the ground in recent months, with cafés in Rockingham and Roleystone also kick started by determined locals.  The premise behind Memory Cafés is about maintaining social connections as we get older.

Much has been written about the importance of active ageing. We are constantly reminded with messages, told to ‘Act, Belong, Commit’ and to ‘Live Longer, Live Stronger’.

What do these messages really mean… and why?

Social interaction provides a person with purpose and a sense of belonging. Research shows that it will improve physical and emotional health, and contribute to the quality and length of our lives, through what is referred to as psychosocial pathways to wellbeing . Researchers don’t know exactly how these pathways work, only that they do.

Our health and wellbeing relies on retaining social connections, yet as we get older too often those connections can be lost – for a variety of reasons. In past decades, when we were unwell we were encouraged to retire from life. We now know that the opposite is true. We should continue to engage, especially if we aren’t enjoying the robustness of our youth.

A recent trial of over 800 people with dementia in English aged care homes found one hour a week of socialisation could improve their quality of life. The trial involved care staff talking to residents about their interests. There’s a good chance this was over a cup of tea. Quite a simple solution really, and one we may take for granted when we constantly interact with others in our busy lives.

So look out for your friends and neighbours. Invite them over for a cuppa and a chat once in a while. Take the opportunity to attend the many events and activities offered by local clubs and organisations. This newspaper offers many options in this regard.

Being socially active is serious business. It’s as important to your health and well being as being physically active. As we get older, and particularly as we leave the work force, research shows that it’s vital to nurture connections outside your own home and in the community. And you’ll probably score a cup of tea in the process.

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