By Sabia Prescott

Today, isolation and mental health remain two of the biggest challenges for seniors. The two are closely linked: The more isolated we are, the tougher it is to maintain a healthy mental state. As we grow older and family members move away, grow up, or can’t visit as often, there are fewer opportunities for social interaction and relationship-building. This challenge can be particularly difficult for LGBT seniors, as many of us may have had to sever ties with family and friends because of sexual or gender identities. Forging new relationships can also be made more difficult by LGBT identities.

Staying socially and physically active can help to combat this challenge and to preserve both meaningful relationships and a healthy mental state. Getting involved in your community and participating in activities can provide at least some social interaction. There are many ways to combat isolation, even within your own living community or neighborhood. Here are a few

1. Do the things you already love doing

What’s your favorite hobby? What did your favorite hobby used to be? Even if you found joy in the past from an activity you can no longer do, you can become involved in other ways. Can’t play basketball anymore? Go to your local high school and cheer on the local team. Volunteer to coach your neighborhood youth team. You’ll be able to share experience and knowledge that others may not have and it’s a great way to stay involved in something you already care about.

2. Spend time on self-improvement

Join a book group, take a community art class, or start a discussion circle. There is scientific evidence that learning a new language can help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Philadelphia Magazine recently posted a list of its top picks for adult education courses around the city, with everything ranging from furniture making to iPad and iPhone 101. No matter what you choose to learn, courses are a great way to start new friendships and get involved in your community.

3. Identify your community

Have you taken a class and still don’t feel a sense of community? Maybe those aren’t your people. A key step in avoiding isolation is knowing what communities you can connect with. Take some time to figure out exactly who your community is, whether it’s your living community, your neighborhood, or people all around Philly with similar interests or hobbies. Make an effort to connect with these people, even with a simple “hello.” There might be more opportunity for connectedness than you know.