As we grow older, our social networks decrease, and we often spend more time by ourselves. This can cause a host of issues, especially since humans are, by nature, social creatures.

You may be thinking, what issues? I like being alone. Many people feel the same way you do but being alone as we grow older is much different from the need for alone time when caring for your children all day. Also different are social isolation and loneliness.

Researchers from the National Institute on Aging are looking at those differences, as well as risk factors and assistance for individuals dealing with either of the two. The studies show that loneliness and social isolation do not go hand in hand. They have linked the two to an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and a variety of other conditions. It is found that those who find themselves alone due to a sudden life event are more at risk for these conditions than those who have been on their own for some time.

Caregivers are essential in counteracting the negative impact of loneliness and social isolation. They enhance the lives of those they care for simply by being there. More importantly, caregivers can transport you to appointments, meetings, and other social events that provide interactive experiences you might not have otherwise.

The companionship moves beyond the tasks they are hired to perform. Good caregivers will spend time with you in a way that stimulates you and gives you the chance to share your life. Perhaps your caregiver enjoys knitting with you, reading to you, or even playing games with you. These are tasks that go further than their checklist and allow you to continue socializing in a way that benefits your quality of life.

Seeking companionship may be hard, especially if you have always been independent and have difficulty asking for help. You also don’t want to offend your current caregivers and/or family by asking for more interaction. It is essential you stand up for yourself, though. You are the only one who knows what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for something new.

It may be hard to share moments with someone you don’t know, but the best caregiver for you won’t remain a stranger for long. It’s important to have their support as you continue to age. Your health will be better the more active you can be.