COSMETIC surgery may create the impression of extended youth but the key to longer life lies instead in participating in religious communities, volunteering and mowing the lawn.

A new report states that keeping up social connections as people get older helps maintain thinking skills and slows cognitive decline.

Scientists, health professionals and academics operating under the banner Global Council on Brain Health developed 12 evidence-based recommendations for adults 50 and older to help them stay socially engaged.

The importance of maintaining social bonds and having a sense of purpose has long been identified as a key factor in longer life. The Blue Zones Project, which has identified communities across the globe that not only have the longest life expectancy, but also the highest population of people over 100, has recognised its importance.

The study revealed Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Icaria in Greece, and Loma Linda in California are the longest-living cities in the world.

Some of the common themes are obvious: walking, cycling and mowing the lawn, de-stressing and reducing chronic inflammation which is tied to most age-related diseases, drinking red wine, eating less and more of the right thing. But also linking the Blue Zone hotspots was that every person had a sense of purpose.

Ranking the recommendations about staying socially active, the list begins by advising people to focus on relationships and activities that they enjoy the most. It states if adults do not have anyone readily available to engage with they should make the effort to attend community or drop-in centres or engage with faith groups.

For those still socially connected, it advises them to broaden their social spectrums to people of different age groups, like grandchildren, or volunteering and getting involved in organised activities.

Research from the Blue Zones found evidence those in Costa Rica with strong social ties had better immune system strength which was not present in socially isolated individuals. Accompanying research found elderly Sardinians scored very low for depressive symptoms and described “how connected and involved communities are. People chat in the bakery, over coffee in the morning or over beer or wine in the evening,” and stated this “meaningful social contact” is strongly connected to well-being.

Even social media, almost a byword for a new form of intolerant behaviour, presents opportunities for older adults to be engaged and broaden their world to others, the brain health report claims.